A recent survey revealed that some people are resorting to harming their pets to gain access to prescription opioids.

People with an addiction can resort to desperate measures to secure drugs or alcohol. Addiction is such a powerful disease that a person might act irrationally, which might include lying and even stealing.

Prescription opioid abuse is a prolific problem worldwide, and medical providers have begun to tighten restrictions on prescribing practices A recent survey revealed that some people are resorting to harming their pets to gain access to prescription opioids.

What Is Munchausen by Proxy?

Munchausen by Proxy is a serious psychiatric disorder in which a caregiver harms someone else to get the attention and sympathy associated with medical care.

For example, a parent might slowly poison his or her child to create an illness. As a result, parents can then gain access to prescription medications from medical providers that were intended for their child’s use.

This deceptive tactic can involve pets. An owner might harm or starve a pet to receive opioid medications from a veterinarian. A survey released by the University of Edinburgh revealed 393 cases of intentional injury to pets. While some are due to psychiatric reasons, such as Munchausen by Proxy, others are attributed to this new form of drug-seeking behavior.

Opioid Addiction and Intentionally Harming Pets

Opioid addiction is pushing people to desperately seek prescription painkillers. Opioid overdose deaths are continuing to rise. People with substance use disorders might understand that physicians today are typically not as free-wheeling with their prescription practices as in the past. So, they are turning to their veterinarians instead.

In 2014, a Kentucky woman was charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and three counts of animal torture. On three different occasions, she had intentionally cut her golden retriever to get access to more Tramadol from her veterinarian.

Tulane University researchers conducted a survey in 2002, where 35 veterinarians reported having at least one client who had fraudulently presented a pet’s symptoms to get access to prescription drugs. This survey referred to the practice as “malingering by animal proxy.”

In 2018, an online survey was conducted by the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. Of the 189 veterinarians who participated, 13 percent knew clients who had intentionally injured a pet to gain access to drugs. Also, 63 percent said that training on opioid abuse in veterinary medical school was either fair, poor or absent.

Addressing Prescription Opioid Misuse

The Colorado study was the first time that the intentional injury of pets for access to opioids has been addressed. But this tactic has now received the attention of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA’s director believes that there is enough concern that the agency has issued a directive regarding prescribing opioids for animals. In fact, veterinarians may be asked to join prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in the future since they are prescribing controlled substances.

If you have an opioid use disorder, help is available. The Recovery Village offers comprehensive opioid addiction treatment that includes detox, inpatient and outpatient care, treatment for co-occurring disorders when needed, and aftercare.

Fighting this battle alone can be difficult, lonely and unnecessary. Contact The Recovery Village now to learn more about the ways that treatment programs can help you begin your life in recovery.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.