Illegal chemists are targeting teens in web drug dealing
ILLEGAL internet pharmacies are targeting young people online through sites such as Facebook and YouTube, a UN drugs chief has warned.
Professor Hamid Ghodse, president of the UN's International Narcotics Control Board, said illegal internet pharmacies were becoming "very sophisticated" in approaching young people on social media sites, leaving them "very vulnerable" online.
He warned young people to beware of whom they were talking to and interacting with on the internet.
"Disturbingly, illegal internet pharmacies have started to use social media to publicise their websites, which can put large audiences at risk of dangerous products," Prof Ghodse said.
The World Health Organisation has found more than half of medicines from internet pharmacies are counterfeit, he added.
"This has become really rather sinister now," he said.
"It is much more widespread than you can believe it is.
"International illicit pharmacies are using social media and they are not just coming overtly as they used to do, advertising their selling of illicit drugs to you, they do it under a variety (of different ways).
"They use YouTube, they use Facebook, they attract you to their website... Then when you go there you will see they are also selling illicit drugs.
"Particularly young people, they become very vulnerable in using internet pharmacies."
Prof Ghodse went on: "A few years ago it was direct, it was the internet selling all sorts of controlled drugs.
"But now actually they are using the social media, engaging people in a variety of ways which in the first instance you do not see they are marketing the drug.
"But then, in a very sophisticated way, they are getting the right question on to YouTube, on to Facebook, and even chatting in the chatrooms, they get engaged, and then bombard them with drugs."
The INCB annual report added that the illegal firms took steps to ensure they looked legitimate, "providing quotes and images of purported medical doctors".
But it added that the firms had turned to "message board and social network advertising" after several internet search engines banned the use of registered trademarks for prescription drugs in their sponsored links.
More than half (58pc) of the 12,000 seizures of controlled substances sent via the mail in 2010 were from India, with others from the US, China and Poland, and "some of course in the UK", Prof Ghodse added.