Prescription painkillers for pets may have contributed to the alarming opioid epidemic in the United States, a new study says.

The research, published on JAMA Network Open, saw that opioid prescriptions for pets is similarly increasing as those for humans over the past years, making researchers think that it may have played a role in the current crisis that's sweeping America by storm. Furthermore, they suggest that the veterinary painkillers may be ending up in the wrong hands.

Increase In Pet Painkiller Prescriptions

The research studied the trend of prescribed painkillers for pets, such as cats, dogs, and small animals that were looked at the School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania for close to 11 years — January 2007 to December 2017. They found that there was an increase of 13 percent to animal visits at the facility.

However, what's raising concern was the 41 percent surge of opioid prescriptions for the pets in the same time frame. Lead author Dr. Jeanmarie Perrone, medical toxicology director and professor of emergency medicine, said the group was finding other ways of how humans can misuse drugs now that the cases are ballooning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported almost 400,000 deaths from drug overdose in 18 years. Moreover, the number of deaths resulting from opioid overdose was six times higher last two years ago than in 1999.

Accidental Exposure Of Veterinary Painkillers

"Even where the increase in prescribed veterinary opioids is well intended by the veterinarian, it can mean an increased chance of leftover pills being misused later by household members, sold or diverted, or endangering young children through unintentional exposure," Perrone said.

Researchers explained that there is still no data on the number of people misusing pet painkillers, but they still expressed worry over the leftover meds that may be accidentally exposed to kids and may be misused by teens. They also pointed out that tight measures on medicines for humans aren't as heavily regulated as for the animals', therefore this could possibly add to the opioid epidemic.

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