Many Americans are purposely harming their pets in order to get prescription painkillers for themselves. Recent reports by News 10 have shown that there is a growing trend in the use of the opioid painkiller called Tramadol, which was originally intended for human use. The drug was then extended to the treatment of animals, following medical discoveries that it could be used without the need for a change in the formula from when it was used on humans. Now, those who have become addicted to the painkiller are scamming veterinarians and using the prescribed drug for their pets to feed their own drug addiction.
Veterinarian, Dr. Lexi Becker, told News 10 that she has heard of cases where “owners will purposely hurt their pets to trick vets into thinking Tramadol is needed to treat the animal. But in reality, the owners are the ones using it. 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”.
The New York Post also ran reports on the growing trend, recalling examples where addicts have purposely harmed their pets in their desperate need to abuse the animal painkiller. They said, “Heather D. Pereira of Hardin County, Ky, was arrested and charged with using a disposable razor to slice open the leg of her 4-year-old retriever on two separate occasions to get her hands on Tramadol.” Chad Bailey, the vet who used six to eight stitches to close Pereira’s dog’s initial wounds, told The Post that he became suspicious when she returned to his clinic three days after the first visit for more pills after claiming that her child accidentally flushed them down the toilet, even though 23-year-old Pereira has no kids. When Pereira returned to the vets for the third time to request more Tramadol, the Post reported that Bailey noticed that the cuts on the dog were too clean, claiming that they were “not the sort of cuts you see in nature”. Following this and due to his accurate concerns, he called the police and Periera was convicted of “trying to obtain controlled substances by fraud”.
In 2014, the DEA scheduled Tramadol as a Schedule IV drug, after studies revealed the extreme high that the drug produced was on a similar scale to that of two of the most heavily used opioids in the US, oxycodon and heroin. This scheduling meant that it allegedly has “a low potential for abuse relative to substances in Schedule III”, which is a class that includes Ketamine and Tylenol with codeine. However, this was then found to be inaccurate as Tramadol can be up to 20 times cheaper than standard painkillers. Due to this, Drugabuse.com warned it “may become the new opioid of choice for abusers”.
The effects of the drug include those similar to antidepressants, which Drugabuse.com explains that these “mood-elevating properties caused them to take higher doses of the drug – or take it more often – than had been prescribed”. Continued use of the drug can lead to a psychological and physical dependency, whilst also potentially causing insomnia, convulsions or seizures. Reports also show that more teens in Northern Ireland now overdose on Tramadol than heroin or morphine.
There is also a new phenomenon which veterinarians call “doctor shopping”. As reported by the Post, this is where pet owners that have harmed their pets in order to get their drug fix will take their pets to different veterinarians in order to gain multiple prescriptions of Tramadol. This practice has also reportedly been used amongst people trying to get more drugs from human doctors. The Post reported from vet message boards where different veterinarians report their experiences with the new drug addict practice. One says, “First the airline lost the dog’s drugs on a trip to Canada, then an extended trip to assist her mom through chemo required an early script renewal for her traveling pet. That’s when it dawned on the second vet that the same person was pulling the scam on her. She’s been using two different pharmacies with our scripts, and two others with my friend’s scripts.”
Another report stated that a couple from Portland had continued to request Tramadol from their veterinarian after they had euthanized their pet. The veterinarian wrote on the message board, “the co-owners had already filled two Tramadol prescriptions and were trying to fill a third (120 tablets each) when they were caught.” Ohio has since tightened animal abuse laws and is trying to work with the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association in order to educate veterinarians about possible pet abuse which may occur due to drug addict owners trying to obtain the painkiller. However, in some states, the problem has got so bad that veterinarians are refusing to stock Tramadol, claiming, “If we think a pet needs it, we’ll just call in a prescription”.
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