Drug addicts have reportedly discovered a horrific new way to score their next high: hurting their own pets to get prescription pain pills.
Tramadol, a medication traditionally prescribed for pain relief and arthritis in pets, is increasingly being sought by substance abusers, according to WXMI.
Dr. Pete VanVranken, a Michigan-based veterinarian, says that many addicts have discovered that Tramadol can intensify a high when used in conjunction with other drugs.
"It's like a cupcake, which is probably better with frosting and sprinkles," he said. "Tramdol is the sprinkles."
Unlike more commonly abused painkillers like Oxycodone, Tramadol is significantly less expensive, according to VanVranken, which makes it way more desirable for those looking for a cheap high.
VanVranken told WXMI that there are obvious red flags he looks out for when pet owners bring their injured animals in to his clinic.
"We've had people use Tramadol too fast, and always the giveaway is they're trying to put multiple pets on it," he told the outlet.
"On our prescription refills, we always look to see when did they get it last, how long should it have lasted, and if they're getting 30 days worth of Tramadol and it's only lasting two weeks, we know that something's going on there."
In the most infamous national case of its kind yet, Heather Pereira of Kentucky was sentenced to four years in prison in 2015 after she was convicted of animal torture and fraud for repeatedly cutting her pet golden retriever with a razor blade in order to get a veterinarian to write a prescription for the animal.
Pereira's vet reportedly became suspicious when she returned for pills three days after an initial visit, claiming her child had flushed the first bottle.
It was later discovered that the 23-year-old woman did not have any children.
Pereira was eventually convicted on three counts of torture of a cat or a dog, as well as five counts of obtaining a controlled substance by making false statements, according to the Washington Post.
VanVranken said that the best thing a veterinarian can do to thwart people like Pereira is remain vigilant and stand their ground if they notice any of the hallmarks of prescription-driven animal abuse.
"I think that sometimes clients will go see veterinarians who they think they can manipulate," he said. "Most veterinarians aren't easily manipulated."
But vets aren't the only ones privy to this serious growing trend.
In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration classified the painkiller as a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means vets are now required to document every Tramadol prescription they write, making it more difficult for addicts to game the system.