College Study Investigates Ease of Illegal Access to Opioids Online

Key Finding: Most Sites Studied Violate Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act. A research project by students of the Fisher College Criminal Justice Division in Boston, MA, found various types of opioids easy to locate and obtain illegally through multiple online platforms. The students investigated the availability of opioids on the Internet as an extension of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ policy to address the increase of opioid abuse, addiction, and harm within the state. The student researchers sought to determine the availability of opioids online using popular search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo!), shopping websites (eBay, Craigslist, Yahoo! Shopping, Overstock.com, Etsy, Oodle, eCRATER, Bonanza, Sell.com, Blujay, and Alibaba), and social media websites (YouTube and Twitter). They found that opioids were easier to find – and readily available – using search engines rather than shopping websites. The student researchers also found that there were no cases in which opioids were sold within the shopping websites; instead, the shopping websites had links to external websites. The search results for opioids using social media were different in comparison to the results generated from search engines and shopping websites.
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