Addicts Are Hurting Their Pets to Get Access to Opioids

People are hurting their pets in order to get their hands on opioids prescribed by veterinarians.

WJLA reported that the extent of the opioid epidemic has now prompted the FDA to issue guidelines to veterinarians who prescribe opioids to avoid such a situation.

“It’s tragic because our goal is to relieve pain,” said Dr. Kristen Caudy, a veterinarian in Ohio.

Caudy remembers an example from her own practice when a client sought pain medication for themselves through their pet.

“I don’t even have words for it. It’s just atrocious,” Caudy told WJLA. “I can think of one instance that someone came in looking for tramadol, which is an opioid-like pain medication. They knew all the right things to say and the medication to request.”

The FDA urges veterinarians to follow all medical guidelines set by state and federal regulations in the dispensing of opioids, including those that tell vets to look into the medical history of pet owners to see if there is any concern for potential misuse.

The FDA also acknowledges that veterinarians in 34 states are exempt from the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs that other kinds of medical professionals must follow. The FDA encourages vets to check their state guidelines to ensure they are in compliance and not letting opioids fall into the hands of addicts.

“It just goes to the point that when people are addicted to these very potent controlled substances they’ll do anything to get their fix,” Caudy told WJLA.

The FDA says that only two opioids are currently marketed for animals. Because of few products on the market for pain control in animals, vets often prescribe pain killers means for humans. The FDA has measures meant to mitigate the associated risks of prescribing such medications. The agency also encourages alternatives to prescribing opioids for animals.

The agency also encourages the secure storage of opioids at home and that old or unneeded opioids should be disposed of properly rather than being saved for later use.

“What doesn’t make sense in the brain of someone not suffering from opioid addiction makes perfect rational sense in the mind of someone who is,” Dustin Mets, the CEO of drug treatment center CompDrug, told WJLA.

The FDA also advises that a vet know what to do in case of a pet overdosing on opioids. The agency suggests dogs are particularly susceptible, due to the potency of the substance and the fact that it can be inhaled when in powdered form.

The agency has a course of action recommended when vets suspect pet owners of seeking vet opioid prescriptions for their own use. They list certain warning signs: suspicious injuries in a new patient, asking for specific medications by name, asking for refills for lost or stolen medications, or if the pet owner is insistent in their request.

The guidelines even suggest signs to look for in the event that veterinary staff could be abusing opioids: mood swings, anxiety or depression, mental confusion and an inability to concentrate, making frequent mistakes at work, or not showing up for work.

“You have to understand that for someone suffering from opioid addiction, this is the most important thing right now. This is survival,” said Mets.