“Pets” by GRANT DAWSON is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Veterinarians Fear Humans May Divert Opioids Intended for Pets

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Pets” by GRANT DAWSON is licensed under CC BY 2.0Derek S. Mason, MPH

Colorado University School of Medicine
MD Candidate, Class of 2022
Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The background for this report stems from a focus group of veterinarians that was held and identified that opioid diversion could be occurring within clinics.

After this, we became concerned that human patients were indeed diverting opioids for abuse and misuse and we wanted to get a broader sense from the veterinary medical community if they had been aware of opioid diversion happening within their clinics.

Additionally, we noticed that there was a gap in the scientific literature on how the veterinary medical community feels about the opioid epidemic. As prescribers of opioids, we felt that their input was highly valuable and should be included in the discussion on how to prevent opioid abuse and misuse. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: 13% of veterinarians were aware of a human client who intentionally made an animal ill or injured (or appear ill or injured) to obtain opioids.  44% were aware of opioid abuse or misuse by either a client or a veterinary practice staff member. 12% were aware of veterinary staff opioid abuse and diversion.

73 % of veterinarians additionally felt that their education on opioid safety in veterinary medical school was either fair, poor, or absent. 62% of veterinarians felt that they can play a role in preventing opioid abuse and misuse.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: We must ensure that veterinarians are included in the discussion moving forward. Since we now know that veterinarians are aware of diversion of opioids, we must determine how often this is happening.

  • Are more clinics/practices more likely to locations for diversion?
  • Are there differences in setting (rural, suburban, urban)?
  • Are there certain pathways that will lead someone to seeking opioids from a veterinary medical practice that places certain populations at higher risk?
  • How are animal patients being affected by this?

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: We are grateful for our partners in the veterinary medical community. We hope that our editorial propels further research in this area that we view as desperately needed. We believe in the One Health framework that human, animal, and environmental health are interconnected and should be investigated as such. We have no conflicts of interest or any other disclosures to list. 


Am J Public Health. 2018 Sep;108(9):1162-1163. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304603.

Prescription Opioid Epidemic: Do Veterinarians Have a Dog in the Fight?

Mason DS1Tenney L1Hellyer PW1Newman LS1.

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Last Updated on August 14, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD