Prescription drug misuse: Is technology friend or foe?


Suzanne Nielsen BPharmBPharmSc(Hons), Research Fellow, Monica Jane Barratt BSc(Psych)(Hons), PhD Student. Dr Suzanne Nielsen, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, 54-62 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Vic. 3065, Australia. Tel: +61(0)3 8413 8413; Fax: +61(0)3 9416 3420; E-mail:


Introduction and Aims. Prescription drug misuse and related harms have been increasing considerably over the past decade. At the same time, there has also been rapid growth in the use of online and Internet technologies. Thus, it is important that we understand the role online and Internet technologies play in prescription drug misuse. Design and Methods. Published work addressing the role of technology in prescription drug misuse is explored. Topics include: Internet supply, online monitoring of prescription drug use trends and electronic prescription monitoring. Results. Little is known about the prevalence of acquiring prescription drugs from online pharmacies. Prescription drugs are easily accessible through vendor websites, and ‘rogue’ no-prescription websites have proven difficult to control. There has so far been limited application of real-time monitoring to prevent overuse of prescription medications. Online monitoring of drug use trends may also prove to be a useful and timely source of information about new methods of ‘off-label’ prescription drug use. Discussion and Conclusions. Technology has the potential to play a more prominent role in facilitating drug acquisition, while also enhancing the monitoring and prevention of prescription drug misuse. As technology becomes more ubiquitous in everyday life, the continued investigation of its relationship with prescription drug misuse becomes even more important.[Nielsen S, Barratt MJ. Prescription drug misuse: Is technology friend or foe? Drug Alcohol Rev 2009;28:81–86]