Lethal Effects of Online ‘Smart Pills'

Want to be more beautiful, thinner or have better concentration? Well, go online and you'll find a pill to cure your 'ailment'. But according to a new report, such drugs can cause ill health and sometimes even death.

The emergence of illicit drugs designed to improve the human body is presenting a real threat to public health, says a national report published today by the North West Public Health Observatory.

Professor Mark A. Bellis, co-author and Director of the North West PHO and Centre for Public Health, comments: “For many, the consequences of a natural ageing process are no longer acceptable. They feel their strength, intelligence or looks still require treatment. They want a pill that instantly gives them a quicker thinking mind and the edge on their competitors.”

The reports points out that some of these ‘enhancement’ drugs such as Ritalin (used by sufferers of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) were originally used to treat illnesses - but have since crossed over into an unregulated marketplace.

“We now have to wrestle with the largely unknown issue of how powerful drugs affect healthy people. This requires an entirely new science,” says Prof. Bellis.

Researchers have detected growing numbers of banned, untested, and/or adulterated drugs on the market, including banned appetite suppressants such as rimonabant and sibutramine being taken to lose weight, and untested drugs such as the synthetic hormone melanotan II being used to tan the skin.

However, establishing the extent of the harms caused by these products is difficult, indicates the research.

“Most consumers are not aware that they are taking a drug. They may also be too embarrassed to admit that they have used such products, or simply do not know how to report any harms. In addition, consumers have no way of checking the quality, safety and efficacy of products sold on the illicit market,” the reports points out.