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Self-reported disposal of leftover opioids among US adults 50–80


Objective To test the association between self-reported opioid disposal education and self-reported disposal of leftover opioids among older adults.

Design Web-based survey from the National Poll on Healthy Aging (March 2018) using population-based weighting for nationally representative estimates.

Subjects Older adults aged 50–80 years who reported filling an opioid prescription within the past 2 years.

Methods Respondents were asked whether they received education from a prescriber or pharmacist on how to dispose of leftover opioids and whether they disposed of leftover opioids from recent prescriptions. The association between self-reported opioid disposal education and self-reported disposal of leftover opioids was estimated with multivariable logistic regression, testing for interactions with respondent demographics.

Results Among 2013 respondents (74% response rate), 596 (28.9% (26.8%–31.2%)) were prescribed opioids within the past 2 years. Education on opioid disposal was reported by 40.1% of respondents (35.8%–44.5%). Among 295 respondents with leftover medication, 19.0% (14.6%–24.5%) disposed of the leftover medications. Opioid disposal education was associated with a greater likelihood of self-reported disposal of leftover opioids among non-white respondents as compared with white non-Hispanic respondents (36.7% (16.8%–56.6%) vs 7.8% (0.1%–15.6%), p<0.01).

Conclusions In this nationally representative survey, 49% had leftover opioids, yet only 20% of older adults reported disposal of leftover opioids. Opioid disposal education was variable in delivery, but was associated with disposal behaviors among certain populations. Strategies to promote disposal should integrate patient education on the risks of leftover opioid medications and explore additional barriers to accessing opioid disposal methods.

  • analgesics
  • opioid
  • patient education as topic
  • outcome assessment
  • health care

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