Video: Teens buying prescription drugs online

By Chief Medical Editor
NBC News
updated 10/12/2006 7:39:40 PM ET 2006-10-12T23:39:40

"Not my kid, it couldn't happen to my kid," Linda Surks told herself. "He knows too much, he has so much support."

Surks, a drug abuse prevention counselor for 20 years, had every reason to believe that. But in December of 2003, she lost her 19-year-old son Jason to an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

"He had a standing order for Xanax to be delivered every month," she says.

Emergency department physicians are reporting an increasing number of adolescents who are overdosing on a bizarre combination of medications. And where are they getting them? More and more often they come from one of the hundreds of online pharmacies where there are no questions asked, no prescription necessary.

In fact, a Columbia University study found that 94 percent of Web sites advertising prescription drugs actually don't require a prescription. And while some sites offer disclaimers, others don't.

"This one blew me away," says addiction psychiatrist Dr. Laurence Westreich, as he surfs the Internet. "This is a Web site that's based in Panama and they say they will accept cash or Western Union only, and they say that if your drug shipment is confiscated by customs, by the police, they'll replace it." 

Such ease of access is fueling an alarming trend. A study this year by the Partnership for a Drug Free America found that nearly one in five teens report abusing prescription medications to get high.

"If I was out of the shadow and you could see my face, you would never think it would be me," says a teenage girl who asked us not to use her real name. "You would never know. I look like the neighborhood girl. I look like the girl next door."

Eighteen-year-old "Karen" was addicted to prescription drugs she bought without a prescription over the Internet.

"I was never a depressed person," she says. "I was always happy. All of a sudden I started taking prescription drugs and I wanted to die."

Now in recovery, she is working to become who she was before the addiction took hold — just an ordinary, average, American teenager — the girl next door.

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