A 2019 Government Accountability Agency (GAO) study of “Patient Options for Safe and Effective Disposal of Unused Opioids” noted that prescription size contributes to opioid misuse. “The majority of patients who received prescriptions for opioids often do not use a large portion of the drugs dispensed.”  Unused opioids in the home may be misused by others and present a poisoning danger to children and pets. Other studies have cited the danger of over-prescribing opioid painkillers to treat post-surgical pain and relatively minor illnesses and injuries, such as sprained ankles.

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The 2018 SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act included a provision directing the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) to review and report on ultimate-user options for safe and effective disposal of unused opioids. In 2019, the agency released its report to Congress. One section discussed why “federal agencies recommend take-back options as the preferred disposal method” for unused/unwanted opioids.

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Last updated on April 13, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has state governments scrambling to manage both the health crisis and budget shortfalls caused by the economic downturn. In some states, that has led to budget cuts in many areas, including funds to fight the opioid epidemic. Treatment professionals worry that funding cuts to treatment programs and the pandemic shutdown could cause patients to drop out of treatment, potentially increasing addiction and mortality rates. Many Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) patients in recovery and treatment programs share those concerns.

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Most parents worry about their teens getting access to drugs at school or in social settings – not at the dentist. However, the American Dental Association and private insurers have expressed concerns about the widespread practice of prescribing opioid painkillers to teens after oral surgeries. The patients who filled those opioid prescriptions were nearly three times as likely to use opioids in the year after the prescription.

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Last updated on April 13, 2021

Recent research shows that patients who receive education and counseling about the importance of safe disposal of opioid medications are associated with a higher likelihood of the patient properly disposing of their unused medications. That peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Pain Research also found “a clear need to increase patient awareness about the importance and methods of proper medication disposal, and a great opportunity for health care providers to increase patient education efforts.”  


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