Prescription Opioid Diversion

Friday, July 8, 2016
prescription opioids

When most people are given a prescription for an opioid painkiller, they take the medication until the pain dissipates. It is quite common for there to be leftover tablets sitting in the medicine cabinet. Patients usually forget the pills are even there and continue living their life.

The prescription opioid epidemic that has been raging since 1999 has prompted a number of actions that were previously deemed unnecessary. Leftover opioid painkillers pose a serious threat, and often end up in the wrong hands. That is why prescription drug take-back programs have become more and more common in recent years. Opioid addicts will scavenge other people’s medicine cabinets for drugs like oxycodone and Percocet. More importantly, teens will also raid their parents’ medication bottles as well.

Such drugs are highly addictive and carry a large risk of overdose. It is vital that those with leftover medication dispose of them properly. Many pharmacies will actually take back unused medications. Another common trend of concern is medication diversion. People with a prescription for opioids giving the drugs away to friends, family or peers. A new study sought to find out how often painkiller sharing occurs.

A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, found that 50 percent of patients with prescribed opioids have leftover tablets and 20 percent share the drugs, MNT reports. The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

”The fact that people are sharing their leftover prescription painkillers at such high rates is a big concern,” said Prof. Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D., senior study author. “It’s fine to give a friend a Tylenol if they’re having pain, but it’s not fine to give your OxyContin to someone without a prescription.” 

There were some other findings of note, including:

  • 14 percent of respondents said they would share with family.
  • 8 percent said they would share the pills with a friend.
  • Less than 50 percent were not given safe storage or proper disposal information.
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