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Drugs and the Internet: A Deadly Combination
An Interview with Francine Haight

Francine Haight
Francine Haight.

On Thursday, June 8, 2006 hundreds of people will come to DEA headquarters to take part in a candlelight vigil to remember those who have died from drugs. One of the parents who will share her story will be Francine Haight. Francine’s son Ryan died of an overdose of prescription drugs in 2001. His story and the details of the vigil can be viewed by clicking here.

DEA spoke with Francine about life since the loss of her son and about what she is doing to help ensure other parents know about the dangers of drugs and the Internet. The following are excerpts from our conversation:

On the loss of her son and Ryan’s Cause

It took me about three years to even function after Ryan died because the pain was so excruciating. The grieving will never go away. I still have this hole in my heart and it hurts everyday. I wish that something could be done so that no one has to go through this. Nobody should have to suffer this kind of pain of losing someone you love so much to something so preventable.

My whole purpose is to tell people that prescription drugs are dangerous; that they are highly addictive; and that they are easily accessible on the Internet. I started RYAN'S Cause, (Reaching Youths Abusing Narcotics) to reach out and talk to schools and universities about the problem. Although the usage of street drugs has gone down, the usage of prescription drugs and addiction to these drugs are climbing.

Drugs and the Internet

A lot of people, teenagers and even Senior Citizens don’t realize that a lot of the drugs you can buy on the Internet are counterfeit…they actually come from other countries. You can be 10 years-old and get drugs delivered to you as long as you have a credit card. Some of these (prescription) drugs are even heroin based because they want you to become addicted to them so you can purchase more.

You can just go on the Internet and…let’s say you were prescribed a blood pressure medication and you decide to go on the Internet to learn more about the medicine...all of a sudden your email box is full with mail from rogue pharmacies asking you to buy controlled substances and mind-altering highly addictive and dangerous drugs.

There are chat rooms on the Internet that kids go to and just talk about the next party, and all of a sudden a drug dealer posing as a young teen like themselves enters the chat room.

Ryan Haight
Ryan Haight.

The Ryan Haight Bill (Internet Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act)

It has kind of been put on the backburner, but there are some people who are trying to get it through Congress. They say it’s just not a priority. How can this not be a priority? The doctor who had prescribed the drugs to Ryan had been in prison two other times for illegally dispensing drugs. He got out and went to another state to set up another practice.

We need to tell these drug dealers and these doctors that they are going to have to pay for what they are doing to our kids. They are just doing it for greed…they are doing it for the money and people are dying.

Five years ago, this was a new problem…but where are we now? Drugs are still being sold illegally over the Internet. We need tighter regulations on the Internet. We are losing people every day. It’s just too easy to get drugs on the Internet.

Parents and the Stigma Attached to Drugs

Parents need to talk to their kids. Don’t be afraid to search their rooms. Look at what they are viewing on the Internet. Know who their friends are. Ryan was an honor student. And even though your son or daughter is an honor student, it can happen to you. There is a stigma and stereotype with drugs that kids who do drugs are bad…kids who do drugs live on the streets…kids who do drugs are gang members and involved with crime. It’s just definitely not true. We, parents, need to know this and more importantly, need to do something about it.

Even today, I am still surprised of how many parents are unaware of the problems with the Internet and drugs. We never thought of how easy it is to buy drugs that can kill you. We need to educate our kids that even though they say they are prescription drugs, prescribed by a doctor, they can be just as deadly as illegal street drugs. People, especially kids, feel that since it has been prescribed by a doctor that it automatically means that the drugs are safe.

Working with the DEA on the candlelight vigil…

The DEA is not just about getting the drug dealers in Mexico. They are trying to reach out and show the human side of the tragedy…in our local neighborhoods.

Our children need to be remembered and hopefully by remembering them, we can help save others. Hopefully by lighting a candle, we will wake up America to this major drug problem in our own backyard.


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