Leftover Pills Are Plentiful, and Disposal Options Unclear, Survey Finds

Jun 14, 2016

As Connecticut continues to deal with the consequences of opioid abuse, a new national survey says most people prescribed painkillers in America get more than they need -- and many are saving those pills for later use. 

Alene Kennedy-Hendricks said she's concerned about the amount of opioids lying around in homes. She's an assistant scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Providers know how powerful opioid medications are, but it might not be obvious to patients that having really powerful opiod medications in the home, particularly if there are children around, might be risky," Kennedy-Hendricks said. "If they're not using it anymore, it makes sense to get rid of it."

Kennedy-Hendricks is co-author of a survey published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looking at the storage and disposal of opioid prescriptions. "We found that around 60 percent said that they had -- or expected to have -- leftover opioid medication. And the majority of those who had leftover opioid medication had kept it for future use."

The survey also found when getting an opioid prescription -- nearly half of patients received no information on safe storage and proper disposal of the drugs.

In Connecticut, prescription drug take-back programs have been expanding in recent months.

In April, state police added anonymous "no questions asked" drug-collection drop boxes at all of their barracks.

More than 60 other drop boxes are available at municipal police departments across Connecticut.