Over two-thirds of surgery patients in the U.S. are overprescribed opioids, and the leftover pills are often mishandled at home, a new study revealed.
The study, published in JAMA Surgery, stated that unused painkillers can lead to nonmedical opioid use and also related injuries and deaths. Many of these surgeries included medical procedures of the lungs, skin, shoulders or hands, dental work, and cesarean sections.
A large majority of patients who have since recovered from surgery also failed to secure or discard painkillers properly, which can lead to misuse and abuse.
The researchers looked at more than 2,400 prior studies; only six eligible studies met their criteria for data on unused prescription drugs. The six studies included a total of 810 patients; 67 to 92 percent of post-surgery individuals who received prescription opioids said they had leftover pills after recovery. Five of the studies discovered that only 25 percent of all participants safely stored their painkillers in a locked device.
Of the opioid supplies provided to patients, anywhere from 42 percent to 71 percent of the prescription went unused and approximately 16 percent to 29 percent the of these patients experienced adverse effects linked to opioid use.
Two of the six studies examined storage safety and the results showed that 73 percent to 77 percent of patients admitted that their painkillers were not secured in a locked container.
Most participants stopped using their opioids after the pain stopped, but some also said they ended use over worries concerning addiction. Less than 33 percent disposed of their excess pills or had no intentions to throw them away. Additionally, less than 10 percent thought about or followed appropriate directions to discard the opioids.
The findings highlighted the issue of personalized pain management — an approach that can prevent overprescribing and lower the risk of unmonitored pills left in areas of the household.