Post-Op Patients Not Securing Or Disposing Of Unused Medication For Pain, Says Study
A new study, published in JAMA Surgery, finds that more than two-thirds (67%) of surgery patients in the United States are over-prescribed opioid painkillers, and leftover medication is being mishandled. Moreover, pills are not kept in secure locations, and the unused pills are not discarded properly – two actions that can lead to abuse by others.
For the study, investigators examined six studies for data on unused prescription painkillers. These studies included 810 patients, and 67-92% of the individuals post-surgery stated they had medication leftover following recovery. Five of the studies found that only 25% of all subjects reported securing their pills in a locked container.
Of the opioids given to patients, 42-71% of the drugs were unused. Two studies looked at secure storage, and findings revealed that 73-77% of patients reported their medication was not secured in a locked device.
Most subjects stated they ceased using painkillers when their pain stopped, but some stated they ended use due to concerns about addiction. Less than one-third discarded their extra pills or did not intend to throw them out. Also, less than 10% considered or followed directions to properly discard the drugs.
The results brought to light the issue of personalized pain management – an approach that can reduce over-prescribing and mitigate the risk of unsecured medication left around the home.
From the study:
“Postoperative prescription opioids often go unused, unlocked, and undisposed, suggesting an important reservoir of opioids contributing to nonmedical use of these products, which could cause injuries or even deaths.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Diversion Control Division offers assistance in finding disposal locations, and drugstores such as CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens provide medication take-back services for disposing of unused medication. These services can also be found at some hospitals and police stations.
October 28, 2017, is National Prescription Take Back Day, which will also offer services to patients who have unused medication.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology