Opioid epidemic: Pet owners hurting their animals to get painkillers from vets
02/03/2017 / By Ethan Huff / Comments
Opioid epidemic: Pet owners hurting their animals to get painkillers from vets

Pharmaceutical drug addicts have apparently come up with a new strategy to score their next fix: harming innocent animals in order to scam veterinarians into prescribing them opiates. According to reports, vets all across the country are seeing a new wave of prescription pill-poppers that are so desperate to access various legal equivalents of heroin that they’re willing to harm their pets in exchange for a few bottles of pills.

An ABC News affiliate out of Albany, New York, says much of the problem stems from a drug known as Tramadol (Ultram), a prescription opioid medication that’s marketed as treating moderate to moderately severe pain. Though not as strong as, say, morphine, Tramadol works in much the same way — and up until about three years ago, it wasn’t even scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as being dangerous or having a high potential for abuse, and was thus fairly easy to access.

Though primarily prescribed for pets, Tramadol produces a similar kind of “high” as other opioid drugs like hydrocodone which are widely abused, and has thus become a target of addicts looking for pain relief. And some of these people are actually cutting or otherwise injuring their pets as a way to access more of the drug without suspicion.

“There’s unfortunately always the risk of abuse with any of these medications, and it’s a sad reality we have to be aware of,” says veterinarian Dr. Lexi Becker, who told News10.com that she has heard of numerous instances in which addicted pet owners are harming their animals to get more Tramadol.


New York state enacts rules to curb Tramadol abuse

One of the reasons why Tramadol has become the opioid of choice for many opioid addicts is its relatively lower price tag in comparison with oxycodone (OxyContin). Furthermore, strict rules exist for both oxycodone and hydrocodone that make them more difficult to come by, whereas Tramadol has mostly flown under the radar.

In one instance, a Kentucky woman was arrested and charged with “trying to obtain a controlled substance by fraud” after she sliced open the leg of her four-year-old retriever on two separate occasions with a disposable razor. The woman had demanded Tramadol as treatment in both instances, and had even attempted the stunt a third time, only to be shut down by her vet.

According to reports, the woman’s doctor noticed that the slices were too precise and too frequent, and that she had already come in just a few days prior for the same pills. The vet reported the incident and the woman was later taken away and charges were pressed. (RELATED: More news on pharmaceutical drug addiction is available at BigPharma.Fetch.News)

But this type of incident is changing, at least in New York state where new rules were recently passed that restrict the manner in which Tramadol is prescribed. No longer will people be able to just waltz into a veterinarian’s office and demand another prescription of Tramadol for any sort of animal injury, as use of the drug is now much more closely monitored by state regulators.

“There’s a new regulation that came out in January of this year for New York State that basically restricts how long you can prescribe it initially, so there’s only a seven-day course that you can initially prescribe,” Dr. Becker added in a statement to News10.

“We are very, very strict about following the rules as to how quickly they can have a refill. We will only give certain amounts of refills. We’ll only give how much the patient should be receiving.”

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