Majority of prescribed postoperative opioids remain unused, says study

Majority of prescribed postoperative opioids remain unused, says study

Prescription opioids dispensed to patients for combating pain after shoulder surgeries largely remained unused and were stored carelessly, a recent study published in The JAMA Network has found. The March 2017 report says that such a practice paves the way for opioid abuse and can lead to serious addiction, mortality and morbidity.

The team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Maryland, Baltimore carried out an exhaustive review of databases like MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from the beginning until October 18, 2016, for picking up studies in which opioids were oversupplied for adults subsequent to a surgical procedure for pain alleviation.

The review of the screened studies focused on two aspects which highlighted that either the patients had filled but did not use prescription opioids or they had unfilled prescription opioids. The authors screened six studies (number of subjects in the range of 30-250) from the databases and the total number of patients was 810 who underwent seven types of distinct surgical procedures.

Unsafe storage of opioids

After a thorough review of all the studies, the authors reported that 67 percent to 92 percent patients kept the prescription opioids unused. Further, 42 percent to 71 percent of the total number of opioid tablets dispensed to the surgical patients remained unused. A majority of the patients did not use or discontinued the opioid use because of the pain resolution, while 16 percent to 29 percent patients reported having experienced adverse effects of opioid use.

An analysis of safe storage revealed that nearly 73 percent to 77 percent patients did not bother to store prescription opioids under lock and key. Unfortunately, almost all the studies reported low rates of desirable disposal of the opioids and none of the studies reported that the disposal method adhered to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) norm.

Importance of safe storage and disposal

The shocking revelations made by the authors indicated that despite several federal initiatives, opioids were freely available and within easy reach in the households where they were prescribed to someone who underwent a surgery. This is a serious matter because the freely available opioids can be easily consumed by children, elderly and pets and can result in addiction, intoxication and even death. Therefore, adhering to the proper storage and disposal of these medicines is indispensable to combat the opioid epidemic.

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half a million people in the U.S. succumbed to opioid overdose between 2000 and 2015, which is nearly 91 people a day.

  • To encourage safe disposal of unused drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) organizes a National Prescription Take Back Day every year. This year, the day is scheduled on Oct. 28, 2017 and after Oct. 1, people will be informed regarding centers near their locations from the DEA
  • However, if someone stays in a locality where there are no collection points, the information given on the label or a patient leaflet can be followed up for disposing of the medicines. Most of the medicines can be disposed of in the household trash. Some can be flushed down when not needed. The list of medicines that can be discarded by flushing can be accessed from here.
  • The majority of the medicines can be discarded in the household trash in the absence of a DEA collection site, however, before discarding these into the trash, one must be careful of not crushing them. Instead, these should be mixed with cat litter, unused coffee or dirt.
  • One must be careful of preventing the medication from leaking into the trash, therefore, after mixing it with an indelible substance, it must be packed and sealed in a plastic bag or an empty container.

Road to recovery

The latest study places a huge responsibility on the U.S. citizens to act sensibly while using prescription opioids. It is imperative to store these medicines in a locker that should be totally inaccessible to the other members of the family, including the pets.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with an opioid addiction, contact the Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline for immediate help. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-292-3211 to know about the drug treatment centers in Florida offering holistic recovery programs to help a person regain control of his or her life. You may also chat with our online representatives to seek expert advice on prescription drug rehab centers in Florida.

Also Read:

Role of prescription drug monitoring programs in curbing prescription drug abuse

Factors that pose risk for opioid addiction