People are Trying to use Their Dogs to Score Opioids at Vet

As the country struggles with abuse of opioids, veterinarians are being drawn into the battle. That’s because dogs use the same medications people do, just in different dosages and that includes opioids. Now, vets are on the lookout for people who might use a dog to score some drugs for their personal additions. Millions of opioids are produced every month and some of those opioids are used by vets to treat patients.

“Veterinarians rarely prescribe opioids and even then it’s in limited amounts in hospital settings,” says Dr. John de Jong, who is the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He says opioids have to be kept under lock and key in a hospital setting and the DEA requires strict record keeping, but even so, vets have seen people using their dogs to try get drugs like Tramadol, which is the most common opioid used by vets.

“There’s been some reporting of “veterinarian shopping” where people go to a vet seeking opioids for their pets so they in turn can abuse them,” said de Jong. He says there are tip offs that a person is “vet shopping.” “If a person came in and they know a drug by name and say I’d like a 3 week supply of Tramadol or I’d like a 3 week supply of Fentanyl or whatever drug—vets are aware of that and you’ll want to examine the dog for a pain condition."

There are also reports of people actually harming their pets to get vets to give them opioids. De Jong says vets will need to research records to see if that animal’s been treated elsewhere and been prescribed pain meds. If so - that’s a red flag. “In many cases, you can get access to those records and be diligent in what you use or prescribe,” says de Jong.

Another drug issue vets are seeing more of involves pets eating edibles that contain legalized marijuana. “I had a case where an animal diagnosed for diabetes was having trouble regulating insulin and it turns out it wasn’t an overdose of insulin. The dog was basically stoned because it had gotten a hold of edibles,” he said.

Some vets are now requiring photo IDs for patients getting a controlled substance prescription. The AMVA says on its website “some states have adopted specific statutes, rules or agency policy statements addressing whether or not a veterinarian is required to provide a written prescription at the request of his or her client.”

It says “forty states have adopted laws, regulations or policy statements that specifically or implicitly require veterinarians to provide their clients with a written prescription upon request in some circumstances.” In North Carolina, state law does allow a vet go deny a prescription request if in the medical opinion of that vet that prescription would be inappropriate.

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