Most older adults aren't counseled on leftover opioids

Most older adults aren't counseled on leftover opioids

Do you ever just take some of an opioid prescription, and then hang on to what’s left over in case you want it sometime in the future?

This is not recommended for any prescription drugs – especially opioids.

But what are you supposed to do with those leftover pills?

That’s a question a lot of people have, especially seniors. And according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging from the University of Michigan, only a third of older Americans who receive an opioidPoll: What older adults say health care providers talked about when prescribing opioid medication. prescription are counseled about what to do with unused pills.

Nearly 600 seniors with opioid prescriptions were surveyed, and more than 90 percent of them asked the pharmacist about how many and how often to take. But only 37 percent discussed the problem of leftovers. Yet half of them said they have pills left over, and 86 percent of those folks said they stash them in the medicine cabinet for later use.

Only 13 percent of seniors actually took the remaining unused opioids back to the drugstore, the police, or take advantage of the “drug take-back days” offered by most communities these days.

And just 9 percent took it upon themselves to flush the leftovers or throw them in the trash.

But get this: 68 percent of folks who didn’t have any leftovers, or who never had a prescription in the first place, said that they would save them for future use.

Not a good sign.

Opioid epidemic problem

Today, more seniors than ever are getting opioid prescriptions, and are hanging on to the pills they don’t use.

The surveyors said that more than 100 million American adults live with pain every day. And a large number of them are seniors, plagued by painful arthritis, back and joint aches, even cancer – the kinds of painful conditions so common with age.

“Older adults are also more likely to undergo procedures that result in acute pain, such as joint replacement or spine surgery,” the report says. So they get a lot of prescription opioids to take home after the operation. And then later, put any leftovers in a cabinet or on a counter.

Not only that, rather than return them or use one of the safe disposal packages available at pharmacies, 62 percent said they indeed would rather keep the leftovers for later use.

So that’s the problem. Opioids are sitting, either forgotten or ignored, in the homes of older, forgetful seniors.

“Millions of older adults have leftover pills in their homes, and opioid medications that linger in medicine cabinets are the most common source for misuse, abuse, and diversion to other users,” the survey said. “Opioid medications that fall into the wrong hands may place family members, particularly adolescents and young adults, and communities at risk.
“Moreover, older adults often need changes to their medications, and the use of leftover medications even occasionally and without medical supervision could lead to unsafe drug interactions and side effects.”

Alternatives to opioids

Many doctors are seriously cutting back on the number of opioid pills per prescription, and that helps. Also, many non-opioid medications, as well as alternative treatments and non-medication strategies, effectively treat a variety of conditions.

Studies have shown that opioids should not be the first-line treatment for most pain conditions, the survey said. Yet “one in four older adults did not try to take less pain medication and one in two did not switch to a non-opioid medication as soon as possible. These are missed opportunities to reduce opioid use.”
If you or someone you care for is taking opioid medications for any reason, and is having trouble, don’t hesitate to call Novus right away at (855) 464-8550.

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