Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Malingering Pet Owners Score Drugs from Vets. (Good Dogs, Bad Owners)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Malingering Pet Owners Score Drugs from Vets. (Good Dogs, Bad Owners)

Article excerpt

BOSTON -- Most physicians are alert for patients who pretend illness to gain drugs. But the possibility may be overlooked when the "patient" isn't human. Dr. Herbert LeBourgeois III reported four cases of apparent malingering "by proxy in animal," in which pet owners sought drugs from veterinarians, presumably for their own use.

"Due to their expertise, forensic psychiatrists could be a valuable resource to the veterinary profession by training them in the art of recognizing and dealing with malingering by their clients," Dr. LeBourgeois said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

Veterinarians prescribe many of the same medications, or comparable members of the same drug classes, that are used by humans. Case reports have detailed abuse of anabolic steroids, opiates, benzodiazepines, and other veterinary drugs. Ketamine, used as an animal anesthetic, is a highly popular "club drug" whose appeal to abusers has led to increased security in many veterinary offices.

Cross-species substance abuse is facilitated by the fact that some animals, especially dogs, metabolize many medications far more rapidly than humans do, so doses are similar despite differences in body weight. The standard dose of the benzodiazepine Tranxene (clorazepate) given a dalmatian, for example, is virtually identical to that for an adult person, said Dr. LeBourgeois of Tulane University, New Orleans.

A survey of 600 veterinarians found a degree of "concern" that pet-owner clients took drugs prescribed for their pets -- most often benzodiazepines, and frequently phenobarbital and anabolic steroids as well.

In one case, a new client came unaccompanied to a veterinarian and requested stanozolol, an anabolic steroid, for his German shepherd, whom he claimed was extremely thin and needed to gain weight. When the client was instructed to return with his dog, he stormed out. Later, a member of his staff told the veterinarian that the client was known in the community as "a body-builder with an unsavory reputation," Dr. …

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