Almost 60 percent of Americans say they have opioid painkillers at home that they no longer use, according to a new survey. Twenty percent say they have shared their opioid pills with another person.
Almost 75 percent of those who shared their prescription said they did so to help someone else manage their pain, The Washington Post reports. An additional 17 percent said they shared their medication because the other person couldn’t afford medication or did not have insurance.
The finding are published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Researcher Colleen L. Barry of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said the survey indicates that many Americans do not realize sharing opioids can have non-intended consequences for people who are susceptible to addiction. She said health officials need to send “a clear-cut public health message that these medications should never be shared in any circumstance.”
The survey found only 21 percent of people said they kept their opioid painkillers in a place that locks or latches. Most people keep them in a place that is easily accessible to young children who could be accidentally poisoned by the pills, or teens who could experiment with them, Barry said. Common places where people store their opioids include nightstands, counter-tops and briefcases.
Almost half of those surveyed said they received no information about how to safely store or properly dispose of painkillers.
Among people who said they expected to get rid of leftover pills, 14 percent said they would flush them down the toilet, 12 percent said they would turn them into a drug store or return them to a “take-back” program, 7 percent said they would put them in the trash, and 6 percent said they would throw them out after mixing them with something to prevent further use.