Pets used to score pills; East Tenn. veterinarians fight back with stem cells
As the opioid crisis continues to worsen in East Tennessee, it's not just physicians who are on the lookout for potential abusers.
In an alarming new trend, people are using their pets to get their hands on drugs, and some veterinarians are using a novel approach to curb the problem.
Dr. Terry Stevens, a pharmacist at the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the Governor's Opioid Abuse Task Force, had much to say on the subject.
"One of the things you learn, from the human side of things, is that people abuse medicine and find ways to get it long before you know what they're doing," Stevens said.
Veterinarians and veterinary pharmacists alike are noticing that more and more people are trying to obtain controlled substances and prescription drugs under the guise of medicine for their pets, but in reality abuse the drugs instead.
"Vet medicine can learn a lot from the mistakes human medicine makes," Stevens said. "We don't want to start putting everyone on opiates without questioning it."
Fellow Veterinarians, like Dr. Wesley Keele, said part of the issue is how the government regulates pills in the veterinary world.
"Different animals, multiple people living at the same location," Keele said. "So the registry is not ideal, and potentially opens up the door for abuse."
In addition to watching for certain red flags in patient's owners, Keele said he locks up all controlled substances and some of the drugs he prescribes aren't even kept on site.
"I'm concerned as a vet, we always have to keep an eye out because we don't want to be a part of the problem," Keele said.
Some veterinarians are turning away from narcotics and controlled substances for treatment. Dr. Catherine Daker uses platelet-rich plasma therapy and has recently began using stem cell therapy to treat her patients.
"Platelets are rich in anti-inflammatory and pain reducing effects, so we are able to put it into an area that hurts and reduce pain and inflammation without having to use daily oral medication." Daker said.
Daker said the stem cell therapy is popular for treating arthritis, which otherwise would've been treated with a narcotic. She also said they harvest the animal's belly fat and inject the resulting stem cells back into the animal's joints, where it turns into healthy cartilage.
She said these techniques are long-term solutions for chronic pain that eliminate the need for narcotics.
Dr. Daker said that there's still a need for opiods in her clinic, such as in the aftermath of major surgery. But she said she won't send any narcotics home with her patients.