Press Release

Embargoed Until Contact

May 12, 2011
12:01 AM EST

Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
(301) 841-9962


From Health Affairs


Prescription Drug Abuse In The United States:
How Much Of A Factor Is The Internet?


Bethesda, MD -- The rising availability through the Internet of commonly abused prescription drugs has raised public health concerns. A new study released today as a Web First article by Health Affairs shows that a 10 percent increase in the availability of high-speed Internet service in a state was associated with an approximately 1 percent increase in admissions to a treatment facility center for prescription drug abuse. The number of US households with Internet access increased from 18 percent in 1997 to 61 percent in 2007.


Growing Internet Use May Help Explain The Rise In Prescription Drug Abuse In The United States
By Anupam B. Jena and Dana P. Goldman


Jena is a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston; Goldman holds the Norman Topping Chair in Medicine and Public Policy and directs the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.


To test the impact of wider Internet use on the frequency of substance abuse, the authors measured Internet penetration across states between 2000 and 2007 using publicly available information from the Federal Communications Commission high-speed Internet deployment database. They compared that to data on treatment admissions to substance abuse programs in the United States during the same time period, culled from the Treatment Episode Data Set, maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). From 2000 to 2007 states with higher Internet growth experienced comparable increases in admission to substance abuse treatment facilities. During the same time period, admissions for abuse of alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, which are not readily purchased online, had minimal or negative growth. “Our work raises the possibility that the observed growth in US prescription drug abuse may partially stem from wider Internet availability through online pharmacies that sell prescription drugs illegally,” note the authors. “Our findings provide a first glimpse that growing Internet use may partially explain why US prescription drug abuse rates have risen dramatically while other substance abuse rates have not. Based on our findings, recent efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to shut down illegitimate pharmacies not only seem warranted but may also lead to substantial reductions in prescription drug abuse.”

About Health Affairs

Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy. The peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published weekly at You can also find the journal on Facebook and Twitter and download Narrative Matters on iTunes. Address inquiries to Sue Ducat at (301) 841-9962 or