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    Internet sourcing and unsafe use of controlled drugs (opioids, sedatives and GABA drugs) in the UK: an in depth case study of consumer dynamics during COVID-19

    Hillis, Alice, Germain, Jennifer, Whitfield, Mark, Halsall, Devina, McVeigh, James ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5319-6885, Abbasi, Yasir and Van Hout, Marie Claire (2023) Internet sourcing and unsafe use of controlled drugs (opioids, sedatives and GABA drugs) in the UK: an in depth case study of consumer dynamics during COVID-19. Emerging Trends in Drugs, Addictions, and Health, 3. p. 100049. ISSN 2667-1182

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    Abstract

    The Internet offers increased availability and accessibility of medicinal pharmaceuticals including those containing opioids, sedatives and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) drugs through both legal and illegal routes. Sourcing concerns have been further heightened due to the current severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19) pandemic which reduced face-to-face access for non-COVID-19 related health conditions and to drug treatment services. This study is the second of a two stage study comprising interviews with three key stakeholders who were policy makers, health care professionals or police, and three individuals who sourced medicinal products online (ISOs). An in-depth case study approach was adopted. Thematic analysis of in-depth case narratives revealed the following key themes; Motivations, initiation, and making the move online; Process of sourcing online; Supply issues and COVID-19; Perception of control; Quality of medications; and Public health recommendations. Motivations for purchasing online are complex and methods to divert and control the supply of medicinal pharmaceuticals are equally complex and difficult to navigate. Novel routes to access now include Telegram, a cross-platform messaging service with enhance encryption and privacy. Whilst stakeholders and ISOs had similar views on the prevalence and ease of access to medication, there were also some substantial differences primarily in terms of perceptions of risk. This study highlights the need for enhanced pharmacovigilance of non-regulated online vendors and the imperatives of continued health messaging around the potential self-directed use of these controlled drugs and the dangers of using websites purporting to be regulated pharmacies.

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