To fight America's opioid epidemic, lawmakers and regulators have clamped down hard on doctors' prescribing practices.
But one avenue for obtaining prescription opioids appears to have been overlooked, according to a new study.
Veterinarians are prescribing large quantities of opioids to pets, raising concern that some people might be using Fido or Snuggles to feed theiraddiction.
Opioid prescriptions from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine rose 41 percent between 2007 and 2017, even though the annual number of visits increased by just 13 percent, researchers found.
Penn Vet handed out 105 million tramadol tablets, 97,500 hydrocodone (Hycodan) tablets, and nearly 39,000 codeine tablets during the study period, results show.
"I think it would come as a surprise to everyone, the quantities," said senior author Dr. Jeanmarie Perrone, director of medical toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.
Not just for pets
It's very likely at least some of these drugs wound up being used by humans, said Emily Feinstein, executive vice president of the Center on Addiction.
"There's a small percentage, I'm sure, of people in this data who are using their pets and an encounter with a veterinarian as a means of getting themselves opioids," Feinstein said.
The U.S. opioid crisis led to roughly 50,000 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.