In the United States of America, people love having a dog as their pet. We take selfies with them, take them for walks, take funny pictures and videos of them and we cuddle with them in bed. But who knew some people dealing with drug addiction are using them as a means to an addictive pharmaceutical end? Everyone who owns a dog has spent some time with “Fluffy” inside of a veterinarian’s office. I’ll speak for myself when I say that this experience is usually a nightmare for my Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever mix Molly and I. She absolutely hates being restrained to receive shots or have a strange man stare at her and touch her in all sorts of sensitive places. But some dog owners, as well as owners of other types of pets, are becoming more and more fond of the veterinary experience.
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Drug Addiction – Injuring Your Dog to get Opioid Painkillers
One might assume that it’s silly to even bring something like this up with all of the human physicians over-prescribing opioids. Most people laugh or scoff when I bring this issue to their attention. Make no mistake, this is no laughing matter, the opioid addiction epidemic drug addiction has made some people so desperate for narcotics that they are willing to maim their own dog to get drugs. Yes, ladies and gentleman, people are purposely injuring their own dogs to get opioid painkillers. I can hardly imagine such a thing, although I can recall hurting myself to gain access to painkillers so perhaps it’s not such a stretch. Imagine being an innocent dog, with complete and total loyalty to your owner, and being repeatedly bashed with a blunt object or sliced open with a disposable razor repeatedly, just so your owner could obtain narcotics.
These may seem like extreme cases but they happen more often than you would think. Veterinarians now congregate in person and in online chat rooms and forums to discuss this drug addiction issue they have aptly nicknamed “doggy-doctor shopping”. Addicts have discovered that although physicians may have become more aware and suspicious of requests for narcotics, veterinarians are still unaware and off guard. In many cases, pet owners have visited multiple veterinarians offices and have received hundreds of narcotics such as Tramadol before anyone became suspicious or reported their activities to the proper authorities. Sometime within the last several years, addicts have figured out that the drug Tramadol produces a “high” very similar to that of Oxycodone, Hydrocodone or Heroin. Furthermore, the drug Tramadol isn’t subject to the same scrutiny or regulatory requirements that opioid prescriptions like Oxycodone or Hydrocodone are, so this makes seeking out these drugs much easier.
Lack of Oversight Equals Drug Addiction
Tramadol, marketed under the brand name Ultram, was developed in Germany as a painkiller for people. It is now used for dogs after research established that it can be used on them effectively without any need for changes to the formula. The FDA didn’t classify Tramadol as a drug of abuse when it first hit the market in 1995, despite its long history of abuse and misuse in various third world countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. In August of 2014, the DEA designated Tramadol a schedule IV substance. Under this designation, states are allowed to adopt their own rules regarding the tracking of sales and some states are far stricter than others. For example in the state of New Jersey, veterinarians aren’t required to report dispensing a controlled substance. One would think in a state flush with opioid addicts that they’d take prescription drug oversight more seriously. Other states like New York require veterinarians to create an online report within 24 hours of dispensing any Tramadol, by far the most stringent guidelines in the nation.
Since the DEA has its hands full, they rarely get involved with veterinary prescription oversight unless they receive a specific complaint or they catch wind of an extremely large order of Tramadol. Veterinarians do what they can, but it is very difficult for them to know if a dog’s owner has been to multiple other veterinary offices seeking narcotics. “DrugAbuse.com” warns that Tramadol “may become the new opioid of choice for abusers.” This warning is due to the fact that Tramadol is approximately twenty times cheaper than Oxycodone, has less strict regulatory oversight and much less attention is paid to the drug in general.
A New Drug of Choice
For one couple in Ashland, Ohio, Tramadol already has become their drug of choice. Prior to the couple taking their bulldog to the Claremont Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Kristine LaFever was warned that this couple had been “doggy-doctor shopping” in surrounding veterinary clinics. Dr. LaFever later learned that this couple’s bulldog had been taken to four different animal hospitals that day in search of Tramadol. The couple walked into the clinic with their injured bulldog and asked for Tramadol by name, which raised a huge red flag. “They didn’t want to take the drugs I wanted to give the dog, which irritated me more than anything,” the vet said. Dr. LaFever refused the couple and they walked away empty-handed. For the first time, she realized she had thwarted an attempt to procure narcotics for abuse when the couple became enraged over not being given the Tramadol that they asked for.
In some countries, Tramadol is worse or as bad as heroin and oxycodone are here. In Northern Ireland, more people die from Tramadol overdoses than morphine or heroin. Here in America, DEA agents will raid houses with dogs living in conditions so squalid that there are dead rats swimming in their water. Clearly, anyone willing to injure an innocent animal in an effort to obtain narcotics to feed their addiction deserves to be punished. But more importantly, they also need help. We need to help them and we also need to help the future addicts who history shows will go to these same lengths for drugs.
This depraved situation leaves us with a stunning and sad realization; the opioid epidemic in the United States is so bad that our pets aren’t even safe anymore.
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