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The expansion of high-speed Internet connections to rural towns and inner city America has helped introduce more people than ever to the commerce and knowledge of the Information Age. However, a new study says that the widespread increase in access to high-speed Internet connections could also be directly connected to a growth in prescription drug abuse.
The study, performed by researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Southern California, asserts that for every 10 percentage point increase in the availability of high-speed Internet access in studied states, prescription drug abuse grew approximately 1 percent. States with the largest increase in Internet access between 2000 and 2007 also held the most drug abusers.
The researchers concluded that increased access to “rogue online pharmacies,” or websites that distribute prescription medicine without doctors' approval, could be one major reason for a recent spike in illegal drug abuse.
Though a study like this might not establish a clear causal link between both increases, lead author Dr. Anupam B. Jena says that the team was careful to isolate outside factors.
“Our analysis accounted for changes in income that could, in theory, have explained this association,” Jena told InnovationNewsDaily.com.
The study also documented that there was little connection to drugs that people could not purchase online, including heroin, marijuana and cocaine.
“This provides stronger support for a causal link between Internet access and abuse of drugs that are purchasable online,” he said.
With the increase in high-speed Internet access, both legitimate and illegal online pharmacies have grown, Jena said. Because of that, it's hard to clearly pinpoint these “rogue pharmacies” — in fact, Jena said that legal online pharmacies could also facilitate drug abuse.
“Illegal online pharmacies are an obvious source of abuse prescription drugs,” Jena said. “But legitimate pharmacies may make access to prescription narcotics and other drugs of abuse easier... [and] easier access could promote abuse.”