Tempted by your Dog’s Prescription?

Veterinary Dangers with Prescription Drugs

When it comes to stealing prescription drugs in the workplace, most people immediately think of individuals who are employed at a pharmacy, hospital, or medical center partaking in this action. While illegally taking prescription drugs in these venues is an issue in itself, many individuals do not realize that their neighborhood veterinary office might also be experiencing the same problems.

Yes, it might sound strange to think that employees at a veterinary office would be rifling through prescription medications meant for animals such as cats and dogs; however, it is an occurrence that is happening within this profession.

There are a number of controlled substances that are used in people that are also used in treating animals, including Fentanyl, morphine, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, diazepam, and hydrocodone, to name a few. Some non-controlled substances that can also be found in a veterinarian’s medicine cabinet can include Propofol and trazodone. Additionally, ketamine, which is a medication used to begin the process of anesthesia for animals who are receiving surgery, is a commonly abused medication by individuals who are looking to obtain a sedative-like high. This medication, in particular, is popular in nightclubs nationwide.

So, it can be understood that those who struggle with substance use disorders and who have a pet who is prescribed one of these powerful medications might be tempted to abuse these substances instead of supplying them to their pet. Veterinarians are not responsible for caring for the pet’s owner, making them unable to determine if the owner is grappling with a substance use disorder. As a result, if the pet requires an opioid-based medication or a prescription pill to treat anxiety, he or she has no way of knowing if he or she is contributing to the owner’s addiction or drug abuse problem.

In the same breath, it isn’t just pet owners who are being tempted by their pets’ prescriptions. Many veterinarians and office staff who work within a vet’s office might be struggling with the compulsion to consume these prescription substances for recreational or self-medicating purposes. This can be a very precarious position to be in, as the temptation to take pills while having access to them at work can be so overpowering that the employee spirals out of control when it comes to abusing the medications meant for their pet population. Additionally, those who might not have developed a substance use disorder might start experimenting with these medications (especially if there is a culture of doing so within the workplace) and find him or herself trapped within an uncontrollable cycle of addiction.

According to a study led by a researcher from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 10 veterinarians within America struggle with severe psychological upset. Also, more than one in six might have experienced suicidal ideation. These issues can be caused by external, non-work related factors; however, many in this field suffer these effects because of seeing their patients in pain and/or having to take actions such as putting a family pet down when his or her condition has left him or her incapacitated.

It is no secret that substance abuse is plaguing the United States at a rapid pace. However, a specific survey that was geared towards addiction in the veterinary world was conducted in 2015 and published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) reported that 72% of those who partook in the survey said they have worked within someone in a veterinary setting who they believed to have a substance abuse problem. Over 40% said they knew two or more people who struggled with this issue. A total of 68% said drug abuse was a major issue in this field of work, putting the spotlight on this profession, along with many others that are grappling with the fatal issue of substance abuse.