Addiction forces some to harm pets for vet drugs

There's a loving bond between a pet and its human, making it hard to imagine someone would harm a loyal family member.

"There have been cases in which people cut their dogs with razors," said Ed Stuber, a clinician with New Insights II, a counseling center in Lemoyne.

What could drive a person to hurt then deprive a pet of pain medications? Active addiction.

"Opioids which affect the brain in such a fundamental way and in such a different way than other drugs," said Kristin Varner, director of training and advocacy for the RASE (Recovery, Advocacy, Service, Empowerment) Project.

Varner says opioids attach to brain receptors, forcing those addicted to go to any length to get drugs.

"I had a client and he would use different aliases," Stuber said of one client who had a dog with cancer. "He would go to different veterinarians and go vet shopping, which is like going doctor shopping, and would rotate until he finally did get caught by police."

While Pennsylvania's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program requires health care entities to share information about controlled substance prescription drugs that are dispensed to patients, veterinarians are not required to participate.

At the Vetting Zoo in Palmyra, narcotics are locked up in a special safe.

"As per the regulations of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency," Dr. Diane Ford of the Petting Zoo said.

Ford says she is always on guard, especially when clients ask for a drug by name.

"Tramadol specifically comes to mind because it is an oral medication and a controlled substance now," she said.

Tramadol is also highly addictive. If Ford has doubts, she writes a prescription for a pharmacist to fill.

"What they are trying to do, ultimately, is access the Pennsylvania Drug Monitoring database, and as long as it's been accessed, we can try to divert some people trying to divert veterinary medications for personal use," said Chuck Kray, the owner of Hershey Pharmacy.

They're using every tool against addicts, because when it comes to substance abuse:

"One of the characteristics is to be very manipulative and very deceiving," Varner said.

Stuber fears veterinarians may have a hard time detecting a crime.

"They are not trained to do that and people are going there to get their animals treated, not to be interrogated and not to be analyzed themselves, but it seems like that's what we are going towards," he said. "It's scary."

Stuber stresses that addiction is a very selfish disease and the actions a person takes during active addiction is not a clear picture of who that person really is.


Online: Treating and Preventing Opioid Addiction

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