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Study: People are harming pets to get opioids

AURORA, Colo. (CNN) - A new study reveals that people addicted to opioids may try to get a fix by any means necessary. Even if it leads to a loving pet getting hurt. 

It's an all-time low for people trying to get high. 

Deliberately and intentionally harming their pets in order to get a prescription for opioids. 

"This is just a wakeup call," said Dr. Lee Newman.

According to a recently released study by CU Anchutz, people addicted to opioids are injuring their own pets, or even dogs not belonging to them, to satiate their opioid obsessions. 

"This is not a systematic investigation in the sense of classic research. But it's good enough to tell us that there is a problem," said Dr. Lee. 

In response, CU Anchutz has created an online course for veterinarians to detect such cases. 

"It talks about the significance of the epidemic," explained Dr. Lee. "The role of veterinarians, best practices and strategies."

At Alameda East Veterinarian Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald says this has been a problem for some time. 

"They know the drug names right away. They know the names. They know the dosages," said Dr. Fitzgerald. "And they say I'm from out of town, and they need an inordinate number, a huge number."

Dr. Fitzgerald also says we are playing a little catch-up.

"The cows are already out of the barn and the onus is on veterinarians to do their own policing," said Dr. Fitzgerald. 

There are safeguards his clinic has already in place for such abuse. 

"We make sure that every animal gets a physical exam and really does have that disorder, and then give a limited number, prescribe a limited number of the drug, and then also no refills," said Dr. Fitzgerald.

Dr. Newman from CU Anchutz and Dr. Fitzgerald both agree, the problem of procuring painkillers from pets is likely underreported, and only the tip of the iceberg.

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