Drug addicts will go to great lengths and find innovative ways to get their high. One trend is that addicts are using their pets or other people’s pets in order to get ahold of veterinary medications they can abuse. This is a relatively new trend, particularly with veterinary opiate painkillers, has gotten more common very quickly.
Law enforcement and veterinarians are now having to take special measures to prevent diversion of drugs for cats and dogs. Certain states like Colorado, Maine, Alaska, Virginia, Connecticut, and some others have come out with new laws to prevent veterinary medicine diversion. Colorado and Maine actually require veterinarians to background check pet owners’ prescription history before they can prescribe painkillers to the person’s pet. It might seem a bit excessive, but it’s probably a good idea considering how many people abuse painkillers. Other states like Alaska, Connecticut, and Virginia have put limits on the strength of the medication and the duration of the prescription.
The Risks of Veterinary Medications
Veterinarian offices might not have the same drug supply as a hospital or pharmacy, but they will have a few serious painkillers on hand. These may include:
- Tramadol is a very common opioid painkiller used for dogs. It is also used for human medicine.
- Ketamine is an anesthetic used to put dogs and cats to sleep for surgery. It is also a drug that is commonly abused for recreational purposes.
- Hydrocodone is used as a treatment for coughing in dogs. It’s also one of the most common painkillers for humans. The veterinary version is not exactly the same, but it will still get an addict high.
A Controversial Issue
A handful of states have implemented policies to reduce veterinary drug diversion, but about two thirds of U.S. states actually insist that veterinarians don’t access their medical records, seeing it as a privacy and civil rights violation. In a perfect world, they really shouldn’t have to.
Addicts abusing veterinary medications is not necessarily a new phenomenon, but the sudden increase in its prevalence is cause for great concern.
Ketamine became an extremely popular recreational drug in the 1990s. The primary way that addicts acquired it was from veterinary offices. This is still going on, but now addicts are trying to score opioids from vet offices more often than ketamine.
Abusing veterinary drugs can be extremely dangerous. For one, these drugs can create a powerful addiction. They can also cause overdose and possibly death. Beyond that, addicts are taking a drug that is designed for animals, not humans. Animals have completely different physiology that humans, so there is absolutely no way to tell what negative effects it might have on a person. These drugs have never been tested on humans, so it’s even more unpredictable.
Unfortunately, we’re living in desperate times in regards to theaddiction epidemic, and we may need to go to some extreme lengths to prevent people from abusing substances. We do need to increase regulations to reduce access for addicts to any and all kinds of painkillers. This means that veterinarians should check the medical histories of pet owners. All states need to enact laws to increase the oversight the veterinarians have when prescribing opioids to prevent diversion.