The opioid crisis in America continues to be deadly causing medical practitioners to wonder whether they have been doing enough to counter this worrying epidemic. But it appears this concern is also shared by veterinarians.
In a recent survey, Colorado vets expressed concern that some of their clients might be deliberately hurting their pets in a bid to get prescription painkillers. The survey was conducted by the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz and a local veterinary association.
Of the 189 vets interviewed, 13 percent reported having a client that had either injured or made a pet sick intentionally, or at least made them appear to be unwell. Almost 45 percent said they knew a pet owner or member of their staff with an opioid addiction, and 12 percent were aware of members of staff either diverting opioids or abusing them. These findings are reported in an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health.
"The role veterinarians play in helping reduce opioid abuse hasn't been thoroughly examined," Lili Tenney, one of the lead investigators of the survey and the deputy director of the Center for Health, Work & Environment, said in a statement. "Our results indicate that we should be paying more attention to how opioid abusers are seeking their drugs – including through veterinary clinics. We want to see health people and healthy pets."
The most common drug targeted is tramadol, a painkiller that can be used to treat both humans and animals, but vets can stock, carry, prescribe, and administer a variety of opioids in their clinics. It is important that any misuse is addressed as quickly as possible as this will help not just humans but pets as well.
While the survey focused on Colorado, it is likely that the issue is widespread across the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that prescription medication overdose is the leading cause of the death in people below the age of 50. Around 115 people die in the United States every day due to opioid addiction.