an ABC Action News report 05/23/06
TAMPA - Federal drug agents contend that the hottest trend in illegal drugs doesn't come in by the ton from South America, it comes by the pill from the drug store.
"The abuse of pharmaceutical drugs is one of the biggest concerns we have. It's an extremely fast growing problem -- especially amongst younger folks," explained agent Mark Trouville.
Federal law requires a prescription for narcotic drugs that is written only after a face-to-face examination by a licensed physician. However, with the explosion of Internet pharmacies, doctors say thousands of people are bypassing the physical exam every day:
"It's absolutely blatantly illegal," said Dr. Joe Whitaker of Tampa. He has seen the abuse firsthand. "I've got patients who've gone on the Internet and bought all kinds of things and as a physician, I don't know what they're getting."
It used to be that illegal drug deals were done on street corners and back alleys. Now, the DEA believes the newest spot for illegal drug sales is your living room, over the Internet.
"A child with access to a computer and access to funds, whether it be a credit card or some cash, can easily order drugs over the internet illegally," stated Trouville.
Action News wanted to see just how easy it was. With an undercover Tampa drug agent watching, we had a 12-year-old try to find and buy Vicodin, an addictive prescription drug, over the Internet with no prescription. It took about 12 seconds with a few keystrokes and a bunch of lies for the child to find illegal prescription drugs.
"Some physician is going to sign that prescription," explained Dr. Whitaker. "He's wrong. He's breaking the law."
Action News stopped our transaction before purchasing any drugs, but feds believe thousands of kids may be doing it every day.
The DEA has gone after a few Internet pharmacies and in one case won a conviction in an operation that stretched from Florida to Philadelphia. Agents said that is only scratching the surface.
"If you go on the Internet right now, there are millions of Web sites out there and impossible to police each one," concluded Trouville.