Washington - Some US states are taking the war on opioids into veterinarians' offices, aiming to prevent people who are addicted to opioids from using their pets to procure drugs for their own use.
Colorado and Maine recently enacted laws that allow or require veterinarians to check the prescription histories of pet owners as well as their pets. And Alaska, Connecticut and Virginia have imposed new limits on the amount of opioids a vet can prescribe.
Veterinarians typically do not dispense such widely abused drugs as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet, but they do dispense tramadol, a painkiller; ketamine, an anesthetic; and hydrocodone, an opiate used to treat coughing in dogs. All of these are controlled substances that people abuse.
But even as some states push for veterinarians to assess people's records, many practitioners maintain they're unqualified to do so. And while a handful of states require vets to check the prescription histories of pet owners, about two-thirds of states explicitly prohibit it.
"I'm a veterinarian, not a physician. I shouldn't have access to a human's medical history," said Kevin Lazarcheff, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association. The state's vets have access to a database where they can check on pet owners, but they are not required to do so.
Veterinarians may be uncomfortable seeing information about controlled substances prescribed for their clients, said Lazarcheff, who practices in Oakhurst, California.
And if the veterinarian suspects a client is abusing drugs, what then? "That's an interesting point," said Lazarcheff, because there's no set protocol. The one time he suspected a pet owner of abusing drugs, his office called the local police.
"Where it went after that, I don't know," he said.