Americans can take prescribed painkillers for Fido and Fluffy. That's according to a new study that warns that the rise in pet prescription opioids could play a role in America drug epidemic.

The study, the first of its kind, published in JAMA Network open now, finds that the increase in the number of prescriptions for opioids prescribed to people over the past decade corresponds to an increase in the number of similar pet prescriptions and that some of these pet medications may fall into the wrong hands.

The researchers analyzed information on all opioid pills and patches issued or prescribed to dogs, cats and other small animals at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School (Penn Vet) from January 2007 to December 2017.

During this period, while the number of visits increased by only 13% per year, the number of visits opioid prescriptions increased by 41 percent.

"We are finding that the epidemic of opioids continues to rage, we are identifying other possible avenues of human consumption and abuse," said the senior author of the O & M. 39, study, Jeanmarie Perrone, MD, professor of emergency medicine and director of medical toxicology at Penn Medicine. "Even if the vet wishes, the increase in the number of veterinary opioids prescribed may mean an increased risk that the remaining drugs will be used later by household members, sold or diverted, or endangered." young children through unintentional exposure. "

For humans, the current opioid crisis in the United States has had devastating consequences. The abuse of prescription and illicit opioids has resulted in nearly 400,000 drug overdose deaths from 1999 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Number of overdose deaths from opioids was 6 times higher in 2017 than in 1999.

Perrone notes that there is currently no data on the number of people who could misuse opioids prescribed for pets, but she thinks it's worthwhile worry.

"It may be a very small number, but we are absolutely worried about the remnants of pills leading to misuse by teenagers or unintentional exposures to toddlers", she told CBS News." We know remains of opioids have been an important factor in the opioid crisis, wherever they are. "

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And the researchers warned that, as prescription opioids in veterinary medicine is not as regulated as medical prescriptions for humans, it is possible that abused veterinary prescriptions could contribute to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

In fact, anecdotes about the use of opioids prescribed by veterinarians have already prompted some states to take action. In Maine and Colorado, for example, it is now necessary to check the history of opioid prescriptions of pet owners before a veterinarian can write a prescription for the disease. opioid for an animal. Alaska, Connecticut and Virginia limit the number of opioids that a veterinarian can prescribe to a single patient. And 20 states now require veterinarians to declare their opioid prescriptions in a central database, as do doctors.

Perrone says that we must strive to reduce opioid prescriptions for pets, as the measures currently being implemented for people.

At Penn Vet, these include encouraging veterinarians to use local anesthetics instead of opioids to relieve postoperative pain, to use pain scores to guide the use of opioids, and to monitor animals more closely. requiring long-term use of opioids, such as dogs that take hydrocodone for chronic cough.

Pet owners are also informed about how to safely remove remaining pills which are no longer necessary.

"This is another opportunity to deal with safe storage, judicious prescription and alternatives to opioids in a different population," said Perrone.