Photo: Ryan Haight died at 18 of a drug overdose in 2001 after he procured Vicodin over the Internet.

New Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations implementing the Ryan Haight Act went into effect on April 13th. The Interim Final Rule was published in the Federal Register this week, and the public has 60 days from its publication to submit comments to the DEA.

The Ryan Haight Act was named for an 18-year-old who died after overdosing on a prescription painkiller he obtained on the Internet from a medical doctor he never saw. After his death, Haight's story became a rallying point for relatives of others who had died from prescription drug overdoses to encourage the passage of the legislation that bears his name.

Like Haight, nearly one in five teenagers has used a prescription medication to get high, according to the 2008 Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey (PATS) conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The same survey found that two in five teens believe the fallacy that prescription medicines obtained without a prescription are "much safer" to use than illegal drugs. The 2008 Monitoring the Future survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 7 of the top 10 drugs abused by high school seniors are prescription or over-the-counter medications. Prescription drugs are now as common as marijuana as the gateway to recreational drug use and abuse by teenagers.

Unscrupulous or "rogue" Internet pharmacies exist to profit from the sale of controlled prescription medicines to buyers who have not seen a doctor and don't have a prescription from a registered physician. The pharmacies lack quality assurance and accountability, and their products pose a danger to buyers. They pretend to be authentic by operating websites that advertise powerful drugs with the "approval" of a "doctor" working for the drug trafficking network. Prescription medications are powerful drugs that, while lifesaving under some circumstances, can be harmful or even lethal under others, and registered physicians and pharmacists exist to advise consumers on the difference. DEA maintains a hotline for reporting suspicious Internet pharmacies.

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