An alarming new study out of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus warns of the extreme measures opioid addicts may go to for a fix.
In this study, it seems there is a trend in which people who are addicted to opioids (like prescription painkillers) are purposefully injuring their pets (or even stray dogs or neighbor’s pets) in order get their hands on some meds.
Study author Dr. Lee Newman admits: “This is just a wakeup call,” adding, “This is not a systematic investigation in the sense of classic research. But it’s good enough to tell us that there is a problem.”
For example, the problem has actually been quite persistent for a while. Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald describes his experiences, confiding that addicts “know the drug names right away. They know the names. They know the dosages.” Also, he warns, “And they say I’m from out of town, and they need an inordinate number, a huge number.”
In addition, Dr. Fitzgerald advises that doctors are, unfortunately, behind the eight ball a little on this. He explains, “The cows are already out of the barn and the onus is on veterinarians to do their own policing.”
With that in mind, then, he says that his clinic has put safeguards in place to look for and try to stem such abuse.
He states, “We make sure that every animal gets a physical exam and really does have that disorder, and then give a limited number, prescribe a limited number of the drug, and then also no refills.”
Both Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Newman (from CU Anschutz) agree that this problem (addicts procuring prescription painkillers for pets) is probably significantly underreported. They also agree that this probably just the beginning of something much bigger.
And in the wake of this strange epidemic, CU Anschutz has developed and released an online course for veterinarians to help them better detect these cases.
Dr. Lee explains: “It talks about the significance of the epidemic. The role of veterinarians, best practices and strategies.”