By Stephanie Stahl


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The opioid crisis isn’t just impacting people. A new study says there’s been a substantial increase in the amount of pain medication being prescribed for pets.

Penn Vet does a lot of intense complicated surgeries and procedures. Controlling animal pain is part of the routine here.

The new research from Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine shows opioid prescriptions for animals are up 41 percent over a 10 year period and that doesn’t correlate to an increased number of patients.

“Most of our opioid use is for pain and for a lot of our patients its really acute pain after a surgical procedure, or after trauma,” said Dana Clarke, with Penn Vet.

The medications used by vets include hydrocodone, codeine and fentanyl patches. It’s unclear why there’s been such a dramatic increase.

The same kinds of drugs are abused by people and blamed for the opioid epidemic

“We don’t have any evidence to say that people are what we call, diverting the medication from their pets and taking them themselves but it absolutely is something that is a concern,” Clarke said.

But some addiction experts say there’s some evidence humans might abuse pet drugs but that hasn’t been specifically studied.

Clarke says, “veterinarians do have an important role in preventing this human epidemic that while we want to keep our patients safe we also have to think about that not everybody’s intentions are good and we need to be smart about how we’re prescribing the medications as well.”

And if opioids are so addictive for humans, what about pets?

“We don’t recognize that dogs or cats get addicted to these medications per se, probably because there’s a psychological component that we don’t know whether they experience, but we don’t’ ever see signs of withdrawal. So we don’t think that that is something that happens with them,” said Clarke.

The study also documented an increased use of opioids at veterinary practices across the state of Pennsylvania but it’s not clear if this is a national trend.

Stephanie Stahl