Torbutrol Abuse

Updated March 23, 2017

The veterinary drug Torbutrol, available at many animal clinics, has been known to be the target of thieves presumably intending to use the drug themselves or sell it to those who want to. Torbutrol may be a less famous drug than heroin, morphine or even ketamine, but it is a narcotic and it's important to understand the dangers of Torbutrol use, especially in human beings.

What It Is

Torbutrol is a branded name for butorphanol tartrate, a narcotic painkiller sold for administration to cats and dogs suffering from severe coughing. In dogs, butorphanol tartrate suppresses coughs four times more effectively than morphine and 100 times more effectively than codeine. The drug can be injected in liquid form by a veterinarian, but is commonly prescribed in tablet form to be given to pets at home---it's this tablet form that is sometimes stolen or scammed for human use.

Human Use

Butorphanol tartrate carries the addictive dangers of any opioid, and since it's not designed for humans at all, any Torbutrol use by a human is arguably already abuse. Prolonged, consistent use of butorphanol tartrate can develop a tolerance, meaning that the user will gradually require more and more of the drug to attain the feeling he's looking for. However, unlike some other opioids, butorphanol tartrate can cause dysphoria---an unpleasant, depressed feeling---in certain doses, making it a less attractive drug than heroin or morphine.


Butorphanol tartrate is also marketed as a nasal spray for use by humans in migraine relief, under the name Stadol. At first, Stadol was uncontrolled in most states, but reports of abuse led the FDA to classify it as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Drugs like Stadol are not recommended for patients with a history of narcotics abuse, nor for prolonged use.


In 2010, two employees of a Kentucky animal clinic were arrested on charges of stealing 177 doses of Torbutrol, presumably for human use. A doctor at the clinic was quoted as warning that abuse of Torbutrol can "cause some major problems---even death." The abuse of veterinary drugs like Torbutrol or ketamine isn't a new thing, but veterinarians and veterinary clinics are not necessarily as prepared for human abuse as other doctors and institutions.


The general professional consensus is that Torbutrol use in humans is strictly unadvised, and that even weaker forms of the drug like the Stadol nasal spray should be used cautiously and responsibly.

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About the Author

Theon Weber has been a professional writer and critic since 2006, writing for the Village Voice, the Portland Mercury, and the late Blender Magazine. He was a staff writer at the Web-based Stylus Magazine from 2005 to its closure in 2007.