One in seven U.S. hospitalizations among older adults is followed by an opioid prescription, and current practices of storing and disposing of these drugs are “suboptimal,” according to two JAMA Internal Medicine studies.
In the first study, researchers examined nearly 625,000 Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized in 2011 and had no opioid prescription in the prior 60 days. Roughly 15% filled an opioid prescription within 7 days after discharge. Of the opioid recipients with longer follow-up data, 42% filled a prescription after 90 days post-discharge. New opioid prescriptions were more common among younger patients, those who lived in rural areas, low-income individuals, and those with surgical hospitalizations.
The second research group surveyed over 1000 adults who had recently used opioid medications. Some 20% reported sharing their opioids with someone else, usually for pain management. Of those with leftover opioids, 60% said they were keeping them for future use. Nearly half said they didn’t remember receiving information on proper storage or disposal. The authors conclude: “Reducing the prescribing of large quantities of opioid medications and disseminating clear recommendations on safe storage and disposal of opioid medications widely to the public and prescribers may reduce risks.”