In a desperate bid to get their hands on medications, a surprising number of people are turning to an unlikely source: their pets.
While most pet owners would be extremely hesitant to give their own medication to their beloved animal, it turns out that quite a few people have no qualms about taking meds that were prescribed to their furry friends. If you think this sounds relatively harmless, think again. These people are not only risking their own health; they’re unwittingly putting all of humankind at risk.
Scientists from the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine discovered this unsettling fact while carrying out a survey about people’s use of unprescribed antibiotics. They never thought to ask about human use of pet medications specifically, but a number of people reported it as a way of obtaining off-prescription antibiotics in their responses to the survey.
The survey uncovered countless ways people obtain antibiotics without a prescription, with the most common methods being stashing the leftovers from previous illnesses, receiving them from friends and family, or buying them abroad. While it only accounted for a small percentage of the overall unprescribed antibiotic use, the 4 percent who reported raiding their pets’ medicine cabinet are a big cause for concern.
According to Dr. Michael Bihari, the use of medications intended for animals is not that uncommon among people who work with them, such as horse trainers and farmers.
Vets told to look out for painkiller abuse, but antibiotic abuse is largely ignored
Veterinarians appear to be largely unaware of this phenomenon. Many vets have heard of patients trying to use their pets to get pain medication. In fact, some vets undergo awareness programs to learn how to spot this type of abuse. However, this level of pet antibiotic abuse by humans was largely unexpected. The American Veterinary Medical Association tells vets to avoid prescribing unlimited refills of medications that might be vulnerable to abuse, but there is no specific mention of antibiotics.
It is also illegal for veterinarians to dispense or sell animal medications for human consumption, and the packages of such meds typically say that they are not intended for human consumption.
Dr. Barbara Trautner, study co-author, points to the example of chocolate being toxic to dogs but perfectly safe for human beings. Likewise, she points out that drugs created for animals can be surprisingly dangerous for people.
While some medications might be rough equivalents to human drugs, others are quite different and are not held to the same levels of manufacturing scrutiny as human medications – and we all know how lax the standards are for humans!
Taking Fido’s antibiotics contributes to the global superbug epidemic
There is a much bigger issue here than the potential side effects facing the individual taking the drug. People who do this are contributing to one of the biggest global health problems: the rise of multi-drug-resistant bacteria that cannot be treated by antibiotics.
These superbugs are a huge problem, killing more than 23,000 Americans every year and 700,000 people worldwide. Projections show that if this current trend continues – and there’s no reason to believe that it won’t with doctors over-prescribing antibiotics and people self-medicating with their pets’ antibiotics – 10 million people could die every year around the world by the year 2050.
If people do not start using antibiotics more responsibly these medications will essentially be rendered useless, and run-of-the-mill infections and simple surgical procedures will once again become deadly. It is believed that drug-resistant bacteria could become more deadly than cancer once all antibiotics stop working.
Some people might be turning to their pets’ meds to save money on doctor visits and prescriptions, but a lot of people are self-medicating, believing that their cat’s antibiotics will somehow cure something that is ailing them. These people are often mistaken about what ailments antibiotics can treat effectively, and they are also ignoring the fact that there are cases where natural antibiotics such as colloidal silver, tea tree essential oiland garlic can prove useful.