An important pillar to reducing abuse of opioids is safe and proper disposal of unused medication.
MedPage Today recently reported that most older adults and clinicians do not discuss what should be done with leftover prescribed pain medication, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging.
In the poll of 589 adults, ages 50 to 80, nearly all (90%) of those who filled a pain medication prescription in the past two years talked with their clinician about how often to take the medication but only 37% discussed what to do with leftover pills. Half of those surveyed with opioid prescriptions reported they had leftover pills and 86% said they kept them to potentially use later. Only 13% said they returned the extra medication to an approved location.
Researchers said this is concerning because extra medication is a common source for misuse and may put family members at risk as well.
“Patients are commonly concerned they might need their medications later for pain and want to hang on to them for that reason,” said Jennifer Waljee, MD, MPH, of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michigan OPEN) in Ann Arbor.
“There may also be difficulty in getting to an opioid disposal site or other restraints around prescription drug coverage that might motivate people to hang on to their medications instead of disposing of them. That’s important because we know that leftover opioids are one of the most common pathways to opioid misuse and later substance abuse.”
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The Great Plains QIN partners with providers, pharmacists and stakeholders in the region to provide education about issues related to medication safety and opioid over use and misuse. Two webinars, Strategies to Improve Take Back of Unused Medication and a follow-up coaching call, are available for viewing that help viewers understand the importance of safe and proper disposal of unused medication as well as best practices from successful take-back programs.