Drug addiction is driving some people to use pet meds for themselves, authorities say. Ketamine, tramadol, and Valium are some of the drugs they seek out from veterinarians, who prescribe the medicine to help the animals in their care.
“They’ve gotten very sophisticated in how they obtain drugs and go about their activities,” said Jim Arnold, chief of policy and liaison for the diversion control division at the Drug Enforcement Administration, told the New York Post.
The idea of people using a pet’s drugs has raised concern as the US is in the middle of an opioid overdose epidemic, one that claims more lives than gun violence and traffic deaths, data show.
Why pet meds?
Medication prescribed to the animals is the same as the medication humans take; the only difference is the dosage, Susan Curtis, executive director of the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, told the Boston Globe. People who get opioid medication from the vet’s office may intend to use them alone or with other drugs for stronger effects.
According to 1800PetMeds.com, medications are prescribed in lower doses to manage chronic pain in pets, and veterinarians may use two or three of them. It also says, “Opioids are the most powerful pain-relieving compounds available for pets, and are often used for acute pain.”
Raising awareness through education
Veterinary professionals and law enforcement authorities in Massachusetts recently launched a campaign to educate the public and animal care professionals about the misuse of pet medication, according to a recent article by the Boston Globe.
There aren’t much data about it to illustrate the scope of the pet medication abuse cases, but while it may be unclear how widespread this problem is, officials say it is not too early to get in front of it before it grows.
“Educating people about the signs of drug misuse, available treatment resources and how to properly store and dispose of all medications is a crucial part of helping to stem the tide of overdoses and death,” wrote Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan in a letter recently printed in the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association’s newsletter.
How to identify pet meds abuse
For Ryan, the issue of pet medication abuse arose when she heard about a pet owner who recently discovered her pet’s health wasn’t improving because a family member had been taking its pain medication.
Perhaps even more disturbing is that some pet owners with opioid addiction have been accused of injuring their pets to fraudulently obtain drugs, a practice known as “vet shopping” or “doggy doctor shopping.”
In some instances, a change in the pet’s appearance may help signal pet medication abuse.
In a 2014 case, a Kentucky woman was arrested and charged with intentionally cutting her then 4-year-old retriever with a razor so she could obtain tramadol, a prescription medication that is used to treat mild-to-acute pain and depression, from a veterinarian. In 2015, she was convicted on three counts of torture of a cat or dog and five counts of obtaining a controlled substance by making false statements.
In Ohio, a law recently went into effect that makes it a fifth-degree felony to knowingly causing serious physical harm to a companion animal, reports Fox59. Under the law, state officials are required to develop resources that help animal doctors identify possible pet medication abuse cases.
In Massachusetts, veterinarians will be given handouts so they can review how to properly store, use, and dispose of pet medications.
Signs of pet meds abuse include:
- Sudden or abnormal injuries or wounds that are suspicious, especially on animals who are normally nonviolent or nonaggressive
- Pet owners who frequently request medications for a pet who doesn’t appear ill
- Frequent visits to the veterinarian’s office for refills shortly after receiving the prescription
- Medication that goes missing unexpectedly in the home
Get help for opioid addiction
If you, or someone you know, have a parent, spouse, or other family member or friend who is battling addiction, call (844) 318-0071 now to speak with one of our Palm Beach Institute specialists.
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