Pet owners are allegedly hurting their animals in hopes of receiving prescription painkillers – and it is turning out to be a new challenge in an ongoing fight against the opioid abuse.
According to a recent survey of Colorado veterinarians, some of the clients were abusing or faking illnesses in their animals in a bid to get hold of prescription medicine.
The survey reportedly questioned around 189 Colorado veterinarians whether they suspected pet owners were deliberately hurting animals and if they were aware of any employee who might be unlawfully diverting such medicines.
“There’s not a clear path as to what veterinarians should do. If pain medication is what’s needed, then they are going to do what’s best for their patient. What they can’t control is whether the owner of the patient is going to divert those drugs and either take them or sell them,” said Lee Newman, the survey’s co-author and founding director for the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
Around 13 percent of the respondents said they were aware of clients who they believed had used their pets to get drugs. They either had hurt the animal or made them appear sick.
In most of the cases, clients had their eyes on Tramadol – the most common opioid stocked by veterinary practices.
Moreover, over 45 percent of vets knew of a pet owner or a colleague who was abusing opioids while about 12 percent said they knew of a staff member who was either struggling with opioid addiction or was giving it out illicitly.
"The role veterinarians play in helping reduce opioid abuse hasn't been thoroughly examined. Our results indicate that we should be paying more attention to how opioid abusers are seeking their drugs—including through veterinary clinics. We want to see healthy people and healthy pets,” said Lili Tenney, a lead investigator on the survey and deputy director of the Center for Health, Work & Environment (CHWE) at UCD’s Colorado School of Public Health.
The recent suspicions of vets didn’t come out of thin year. There have been instances in the past where drug addicts have hurt their pet animals to satisfy their cravings.
In 2014, a Kentucky woman was arrested after she confessed she cut her dog with razor blades, just so she could take the canine’s pain medication.
An Ohio man had reportedly taught his dog to cough to get a prescription for hydrocodone cough syrup.
Another young man with a small dog named Dolly claimed his pet suffered bouts of anxiety. Dolly was treated for anxiety by five veterinarians – but she wasn’t the one who used the prescribed tranquilizers.
All such reported incidents indicate pet owners knowingly inflicting pain on animals isn’t an uncharted territory–yet neither the Denver Police Department nor Denver Animal Protection had any records of arrest being made for animal abuse of such manner.
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