GAITHERSBURG, Md. - The opioid epidemic is now showing up in some veterinary offices and opioid abusers are finding loopholes in the system by using their pets to score drugs.
Veterinarians are not regulated in the way your doctor might be. This means easy access to drugs for abusers when it comes to certain medications.
There is a plan to combat the problem with legislation, but it is a solution one veterinarian said could be nearly impossible to implement.
It’s called “vet shopping.” Drugs like tramadol, which is meant for your pet, can create the same fix as OxyContin or heroin. You can find this and more all in your veterinarian’s office.
Dr. Kristy Bennett of the Montgomery Village Animal Hospital has had at least two instances where owners have used their pets to try to obtain drugs.
“Often what people will do is take their pet to multiple veterinarians and request the same prescription,” she said. “They also sometimes request large quantities.”
Bennett said the opioid crisis in the streets has contributed to the growing problem in exam rooms.
“We deal with a lot of the same medications as humans, but we are not covered by Social Security and Medicare and those kinds of things so there is a lot of gray area or little holes in the laws,” said Dr. Bennett.
Plans to introduce a bill in Virginia are in the works. It would require veterinarians to use a prescription monitoring program. However, Dr. Bennett said that means every animal would need to be microchipped in order to identify pets, which is a daunting task.
Fairfax County police has started a program to educate doctors on the issue and how to identify abusers. But right now for veterinarians, their system is word of mouth.
“It’s really a horrible problem that we are facing and I don't know what the answers are to solve it, but I feel bad for all the people that are caught up in it and are hurt by it,” said Bennett.
On Wednesday, the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine’s regulatory advisory panel for prescribing opioids will meet to discuss the proposed regulations and make recommendations on how to deal with the problem.