Veterinarians on alert for opioid misuse by pet owners

Veterinarian opioid training

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - You take your dog or cat to the veterinarian so they can be treated for an illness or injury. Usually, that help could come with some kind of medication.

Now, veterinarians are on alert, in the middle of an opioid epidemic, to make sure pet owners aren’t taking a trip to the office for themselves.

“It ranges anywhere from a simple vaccine, to potential hit by car, or leg fracture," said Dr. Tara Farrell, a veterinarian at The Pet Doctor. She said they have thirty to one hundred patients on any given day at the office on Oracle Road.

At The Pet Doctor, there is a pharmacy, but Dr. Farrell said there are limits to what they can prescribe from the office, or at all. She said they often use tramadol, a controlled substance used to treat moderate to severe pain, that is similar to morphine.

Dr. Farrell said there has been a time or two, that she was suspicious of a certain case.

“If we gave them enough medication, then they shouldn’t need more. So then we start to wonder, are they misusing it?" Dr. Farrell said.

Earlier this year, the FDA released a new resource guide to support responsible opioid prescribing for pain management in animals.

We recognize that opioids and other pain medications have a legitimate and important role in treating pain in animals – just as they do for people. But just like the opioid medications used in humans, these drugs have potentially serious risks, not just for the animal patients, but also because of their potential to lead to addiction, abuse and overdose in humans who may divert them for their own use.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

“I’ve been a cop for well over two decades now, and I can tell you the things people do to get drugs, it doesn’t surprise me anymore," said Lt. Chris Wildblood, with the Counter Narcotics Alliance.

Lt. Wildblood led a course on the opioid epidemic for veterinarians, including Dr. Farrell, this week. Three hours of opioid or substance abuse education are now required for your pet’s doctor to new his or her license, every two years.

The requirement went into effect in April, after the signing of the ’2018 Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act' at the beginning of the year.

“The drugs, or the prescriptions go to the people. And it’s the people that make the decision to do the diversion of the drugs. So instead of getting to the patients, the animal. They can go and take it," said Lt. Wildblood.

“We just kind of monitor how quickly they are being used up, one, because we usually give out a thirty day supply, is the max," said Dr. Farrell. “If they are asking for more than that in a month’s worth, than we kind of know something’s up.”

The law requires any veterinarian who reasonably suspects or believes that an individual is attempting to obtain controlled substances for a reason other than to treat an animal to report the suspicion to local law enforcement within 48 hours.

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