Among Americans 12 years of age and older who misuse prescription pain relievers, the most common source of acquired medication is:
Examining data from almost 10 million Americans who misused prescription pain relievers in 2017 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that over half bought or took the medication from a friend or relative, over one third obtained the medication from a single prescriber, and 6.5% bought the medication from a drug dealer or stranger (1).
These findings point to a strong need not just for responsible opioid prescribing but also the appropriate disposal of leftover opioids remaining in homes when the medication is no longer needed to treat pain. Hospitals can facilitate drug disposal by sponsoring prescription drug take-back days and providing onsite drug lock boxes. In addition, families can be instructed regarding safe home disposal methods. Drug disposal products can be provided when prescription opioids are dispensed to encourage home disposal. Some commercial products act as chemical adsorbents or deterrents while others act by sequestering medicine in a gel matrix (2). However, provision of a disposal product may not significantly increase rates of opioid disposal (3) unless accompanied by active patient and family education (4, 5).
3. Bicket MC, Fu D, Swarthout MD, White E, Nesbit SA, Monitto CL. Effect of Drug Disposal Kits and Fact Sheets on Elimination of Leftover Prescription Opioids: The DISPOSE Multi-Arm Randomized Controlled Trial. Pain Med. 2021 Apr 20;22(4):961-969.
4. Voepel-Lewis T, Farley FA, Grant J, Tait AR, Boyd CJ, McCabe SE, Weber M, Harbagh CM, Zikmund-Fisher BJ. Behavioral Intervention and Disposal of Leftover Opioids: A Randomized Trial. Pediatrics. 2020 Jan;145(1):e20191431.
5. Lawrence AE, Carsel AJ, Leonhart KL, Richards HW, Harbaugh CM, Waljee JF, McLeod DJ, Walz PC, Minneci PC, Deans KJ, Cooper JN. Effect of Drug Disposal Bag Provision on Proper Disposal of Unused Opioids by Families of Pediatric Surgical Patients: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatr. 2019 Aug 1;173(8):e191695.