Abusing Your Pets’ Medications: The Dangers of Pet Prescriptions

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There is a growing trend happening today of people abusing their pets’ medications. The dangers of pet prescriptions that you or someone you know may be taking can cause real health hazards. While it may seem harmless to take antibiotics or analgesics meant for pets, the consequences could make you ill or leave your body resistant to antibiotics meant for human use.

A CBS News report mentions the excuses veterinarians hear from pet parents to obtain more prescription drugs for their pet. Some of them say the medicine has been used up fast or that it has spilled many times.

Veterinarians are educated to look and listen for the signs of possible pet medication abuse. The CBS News story states, “If the pet owners refuse to allow the hospital to get a hold of previous records or come in actively looking for drugs by name — like Tramadol, for example — that triggers an alarm for vets. Vets are then advised to look for a drug-free, safe alternative to treat the injured animal.”  

Some people have gone so far as to harm their pet so they can obtain Tramadol, an oral drug that has opiate-like effects. It may seem a bit far-fetched to understand how or why someone would abuse medication meant for an animal. The reasons might surprise you, and the effects of misusing them may alarm you.

Why Do People Take Pet Medication?

Why do some people misuse pet medication? The reasons given are no access or lack of access to a primary health care provider, overall convenience, cost of the provider visit, and cost of human prescription medicine. In an effort to reduce medical costs, some people self-diagnose themselves and then seek to self-medicate using a pet’s prescription medicine, such as an antibiotic.

Below are some of the most commonly abused pet drugs:

  • Ketamine – Prescribed as a cat tranquilizer.
  • Diazepam (Xanax, Klonopin) – Prescribed for pet anxiety
  • Tramadol – Prescribed for pet pain relief
  • Phenobarbital – Prescribed for pet anxiety
  • Hydrocodone – An opioid prescribed for coughing in dogs

As the opioid epidemic took over the country, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and state governments cracked down on opioid prescriptions, people who were struggling with opioid abuse had to look elsewhere for the drugs they wanted. Some may have moved on to heroin or have taken other drugs that contained synthetic opioids. Others sought alternative sources to get prescription opioids, such as their pet’s vet.

In 2018, the American Journal of Public Health noted a Colorado veterinarian survey, which stated that “13% of surveyed veterinarians were aware that an animal owner had intentionally made an animal ill, injured an animal, or made an animal seem ill or injured to obtain opioid medications.”

pet-medication-abuse

Why Taking Pet Medication is a Bad Idea

Serious health consequences can occur when people misuse medication for their pet prescribed by a veterinarian.

As reported by Healthline, one of the main reasons not to take a pet’s prescription medicine is that it is not the best way to treat a serious infection. 

“Taking any prescription drug without a proper diagnosis from a healthcare practitioner can be dangerous. In the case of antibiotics, it can mean inappropriate treatment for a serious infection,” said Michael Ganio, PharmD, MS, BCPS, FASHP, the director of pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists.

Other reasons why you should not take a pet’s medicine are that the antibiotic or pain reliever could contain ingredients that are harmful to humans. Also, the drug’s container may not have dosage instructions. Your body could become antibiotic-resistant, making it less likely that antibiotics will help you in the future.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strictly scrutinizes all medications for human use. Medication for animals is not so tightly regulated. Some medicines for animals may have more impurities in them, which can cause a human to feel ill.

You won’t know the amount and type of inactive ingredients in any particular drug for your pet or if it is safe for people. Some pills for pets might also contain specific additives, says a Slate Explainer article. It’s also essential to know that some versions of human anti-anxiety medications and pain relievers are approved for other species as well. However, the dose would be determined by the animal’s size and weight. So, if your cat or dog is prescribed Tramadol, the dose would be lower than it would be for you. This could lead you to take more of the medicine and possibly risk experiencing any adverse side effects of the drug.

Stealing Your Pets’ Medications

A Vice article relays some alarming news about the scope of veterinary prescription medicine that was stolen.

A Cleveland veterinary clinic was robbed of its entire tramadol supply.

Oregon police confiscated 100,000 pills in a drug raid of a dog-breeding operation. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, addiction treatment is readily available. Recovery Hub can help you find the right treatment center for your individual needs.

About Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeing and use despite adverse consequences, as defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). It is not the same as tolerance or dependence

Addiction treatment is individual to the person needing it and progresses as the person progresses. There are different therapy types, such as cognitive behavior therapy, individual, group and family therapy. 

Most insurance plans cover substance use treatment. If you do not currently have insurance, your state may have a program to help you pay for it. Affordability should not be an option when seeking help to end substance use.

Below are services that are provided at substance use treatment centers:

  • Medical detox, which might include maintenance medications
  • Inpatient care in an accredited treatment facility
  • Long-term residential care in an accredited treatment facility
  • Outpatient care at an accredited treatment facility
  • Co-occurring disorders or mental health disorders
  • Aftercare counseling or therapy, 12-step programs

Treatment is effective when it lasts at least 90 days. Shorter stays might not be beneficial for the person in substance use treatment. It is also good to know that a person’s treatment plan is continually reviewed and changes as the needs of the person change throughout the course of treatment.

There are a variety of support groups available that cover a gamut of options, such as Christian groups, other religious groups, groups for teens, older people, women, and men-only groups, Veterans groups, LGBTQ groups, and more. You are not alone.

There are dangers in abusing your pets’ medications. If you feel the need to swipe Fido of Fluffy’s meds, it is time to seek help from an accredited addiction treatment center.  

Sources

CBS News. (2017, February 24) Addicts using pets to score drugs, veterinarians warn. Earl, J. from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/addicts-turning-to-abusing-pets-to-score-drugs-veterinarians-warn/

Healthline. (2019, December 2019) People Are Using Their Pets’ Prescription Meds: Why That’s a Terrible Idea. McCarthy, M. from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/people-using-pet-prescription-medication-terrible-idea

American Journal of Public Health. AJPH Perspectives. Prescription Opioid Epidemic: Do Veterinarians Have a Dog in the Fight? from https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304603

Slate. (2011, November) Can I Take My Dog's Pills? Palmer, B. from https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2011/04/is-it-safe-for-humans-to-take-animal-drugs.html

NIDA. (2020, July 13). Drug Misuse and Addiction. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-misuse-addiction

NIDA. (2020, December 2). Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/there-difference-between-physical-dependence-addiction

Vice. (2017, January 18) People Are Stealing Drugs Prescribed to Pets. Rinkhaus, S. from https://www.vice.com/en/article/qkkp5w/people-are-stealing-drugs-prescribed-to-pets

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