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Vet-Shopping: People Are Stealing Their Pets Medications

List Of Medications People Steal From Their Pets

Pets get sick just like people do, and sometimes they need medications to get better. What makes it tricky is that some of the drugs given to pets are addictive narcotics like opioids, anesthetics, or barbiturates. So what’s been happening is pet-owners steal their pet’s medicine. This is a serious crime, known as prescription fraud. Use of pet medications may begin after the realization that their ingredients are often the same ones in commonly misused painkillers and other drugs—or perhaps a friend suggests that a person can get high on this stuff. In the grand scheme things, people use pet medication based on curiosity, to feel good, do better, or feel better.

The most common reason for a person to use pet medication is to get high.

Some pet-owners have physically hurt their pet, taught dogs to cough on command, or simply diverted or misused its medication. People have also been known to go to several vets’ offices and request specific types of pet medications. Some potentially used pet medications, (by category, name, and legitimate use) are:

  • Dissociative Anesthetic – Ketamine – Cat Tranquilizer
  • Barbiturate – Phenobarbital – Pet Anxiety
  • Opioid – Tramadol – Pet Painkiller
  • Opioid – Hydrocodone – Coughing in Dogs

[inline_cta_four] So what’s next? To sort of direct the issue away from pets to people, a lot of those who struggle with addiction will behave out of character by doing things that hurt others, or even their pets. Overcoming addiction can require a lot of work, but recovery is possible, it just needs to be at the forefront of a person’s life. The Substance Use and Mental Health Services’ working definition of recovery, suggests that in order to maintain long-term sobriety, a person must make life changes regarding their health, home, purpose, and community. They state that recovery is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self- directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” If someone you care about is abusing their pet’s medication, they more than likely don’t intend to hurt anyone. Keep in mind that drug addiction actually changes the way the brain works, by disrupting its chemistry.

Is It Safe For People To Take Pet Medication?

No. When a vet prescribes medication to someone’s animal, the dose size and concentration of that medication is intended to treat a pet of a certain size and weight. So when people misuse these drugs, they really have no indication of how much of the drug, if any, is safe for them to use. Physicians often take into consideration the type of medicine that’s appropriate for each patient. Vets aren’t doing that for people, they’re doing it for animals. Some of the biggest problems arise when people don’t understand the risk of abusing medications, that it might not be safe for them, or that it can be dangerous to mix different substances. A lot of people abusing pet medications assume that because it was meant for their pet, they automatically need to increase the dose size, or take it more regularly to get the desired effect. But this is a false belief, and it gets people into a lot of trouble. The bottom line is that abusing pet medication puts people’s lives at risk. Really, abusing any medication is dangerous, and it can lead to increased tolerance, dependence, addiction, overdose, and even death. In 2014, 47,055 people died of drug overdoses.

What Is Prescription Drug Use?

The National Library of Medicine defines drug use as taking “medicine in a way that is different from what the doctor prescribed.” Some of the common scenarios of drug use are:

  • Taking a medicine that was prescribed for someone else…
  • Taking a larger dose than you are supposed to
  • Taking the medicine differently than you are supposed to. This might be crushing tablets and then snorting or injecting them
  • Using the medicine for another purpose, such as getting high

Furthermore, a person abusing prescription drugs is more likely to develop an addiction to them. Addiction is tricky because it’s a habit, but also a mental obsession that takes more than self-will to overcome. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

“Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.”

Could Increased Enforcement Minimize Vet-Shopping?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, “forty-nine states—all but Missouri—and the District of Columbia track controlled substance dispensing to thwart doctor shopping, the seeking of addictive or dangerous drugs from multiple doctors or pharmacists. About a third require veterinarians to report to state databases when they dispense controlled substances, whereas about 40 require reports from dispensing physicians.” The list of the potential state responses on pet medication restriction is often controversial. Veterinarians argue that they aren’t qualified to ascertain whether or not someone is going to use a pet’s medication. Nonetheless, it’s a serious issue—and here are some of the potential approaches to stopping vet-shopping:

  • Veterinary Prescription Monitoring Program Task Force
  • PDMP – Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
  • Strictly moderate the number of medications allowed per pet
  • Background checks on pet owners
  • Re-design pet medications to have less effect on humans
  • Mandate that veterinarians become educated on opioid, and another medication potential for use

Should veterinarians be stipulated to be more conscious about who they’re giving meds to? That’s exactly what some states are imposing. It may seem unfair to bring pets into the prescription drug controversy, but if it keeps them and their owners safe, perhaps we need to take any steps needed to do just that. Why isn’t this already a law? Well “even as some states push for veterinarians to assess people’s records, many practitioners maintain they’re unqualified to do so. And while a handful of states requires vets to check the prescription histories of pet owners, about two-thirds of states explicitly prohibit it,” (The Washington Post). At one point, Maine and New Hampshire attempted to stop the flow of prescription drugs through their state. “Both states enacted laws requiring veterinarians to check the PDMP database before prescribing, but the New Hampshire legislature repealed its law after veterinarians argued that their professional responsibilities did not extend to the human owner.”

“Our patients are pets. They’re not abusing the medication. The owners are,” said Jane Barlow Roy, of the New Hampshire Veterinary Medical Association

Fortunately, Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs are being made easier to use, no matter the field of medicine. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “PDMPs have illustrated changes in prescribing behaviors, use of multiple providers by patients, and decreased substance use treatment admissions.”

What To Do If Someone Is Abusing Pet Medications?

Keeping your pet healthy is the veterinarian’s main objective. When a pet gets sick or injured, vets give them proper treatment, and sometimes medication. One of the biggest hurdles occurs when pet owners divert, misuse, and use these medications. How can veterinarians tell if someone’s abusing their pet’s drugs? And more importantly, how can they stop it from happening? It can be hard to tell if someone’s abusing any kind of drug, especially one that’s meant for an animal. As parents of teenagers, it may help to regulate and monitor the amount of medicine that your pet takes, and hide the rest. If someone you care about is struggling with drug use, you may find the care and support they need at a drug rehab center. Comprehensive addiction treatment is based on an individual’s needs, and everyone is different, so will be their paths to recovery. If you suspect that someone’s stealing their pet’s medication, remember that they are sick, and they need your help. If it’s you who is suffering from an addiction, there’s hope to overcome it.

Start Your Recovery Journey Today

Contact us today if you can’t seem to stop using pet medications. Our addiction specialists can help you or your loved one map a recovery plan, and find the best possible addiction treatment. Your call will be 100 percent confidential.