Not in opposition to psychiatry but rather bypassing it, the illicit online pharmaceutical trade is booming.

Used far more commonly than heroin and cocaine now, prescription drug abuse has mushroomed in the last decade. Vicodin (“vics”), oxycodone, and other analgesics, stimulants and benzodiazepines are increasing popular among teens as well as abused by older adults. Some are bought at no prescription web sites that often aren’t even legit as illegitimate, frauds that never deliver the product ordered. But many meet the demand.

Increasingly abusers consult web sites detailing pharma hacks like crushing, purifying, and chemically altering formulations. Some become widespread fads as a result. Tampering with transdermal patches is an especially dangerous practice.

A growing culture of self-medicating people with mental illnesses is also purchasing online, but instead of opioids they’re buying nonaddictive psych meds. Antidepressants, Viagra and other popular treatments are bought and traded by usernames who also swap psychological and medical advice with each other. Groups of amateur pharmacists who read web sites about psychopharmacology along with lots of personal anecdotes in support forums, then diagnose and dispense to their friends. They are not counted among drug abusers so no statistics are available (that I could find), but seem to be a growing phenomenon as evidenced by Google hits.

A portion of psych med misusers go online because of difficulty accessing a doctor or other treatment, with unavailability, insurance restrictions, cost, and stigmatism among the reasons, and they feel (over)confident enough to DIY. A bigger concern are usernames who self-medicate inappropriately and use these sites due to skepticism of their pdocs or anger against the mental health system. In self-medicating, many physical and mental health variables may be overlooked. Doctors are trained in important details and untrained self-prescribing is dangerous, even fatal.

It’s a booming culture. Teenagers throw “pharma parties” to trade pills their homes are plump with, and 1 in 5 has used prescription drugs. As informed (and misinformed) consumers as well as thrillseekers turn to trading pills online, it suggests the future of drug misuse and abuse.

The good news is that on the internets, it’s also easy to find help to recover from prescription drug abuse.