Researchers say patients who receive proper instruction on how to dispose of their unused post-op pain medications are twice as likely to do so. This encouraging finding gives healthcare professionals hope that they have a new tool to reduce the number of over-prescribed medications that are contributing to the nation’s current opioid epidemic.
In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of American College Surgeons, researchers acknowledged the challenge of prescribing the appropriate amount of post-op meds and concluded that healthcare professionals could prevent inappropriate use by providing post-op patients with an inexpensive brochure with specific instructions about what to do with unused opioids.
For the study, healthcare professionals from Barnes Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis developed a brochure that explained how improper disposal of medications contributed to the opioid epidemic. The brochure also provided key information on:
- Drug take-back locations
- How to dispose of medications in accordance with FDA guidelines
- Recommendations to combine unused meds with liquid dish detergent, kitty litter, or other household items that would discourage “dumpster diving”.
The brochures were given to 170 post-op patients between February and September 2017. A separate group of 164 post-op patients were not given the brochure. Both groups were later surveyed. Of the group that did not receive the brochure, 11 percent properly disposed of their unused meds compared to 22 percent of those who received the brochure.
Based on these findings, researchers are spreading the word to surgical facilities across the country and encouraging them to be proactive and educate post-op patients about keeping opioids out of the wrong hands.
In the study’s conclusion they wrote, “This low-cost, easily implemented intervention can improve disposal of unused opioids and ultimately, decrease the amount of excess opioids circulating in our communities.”To learn more, read the full study.