April 18, 2017
1 min read

AMA offers guidance on safely disposing, storing, opioids

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The AMA’s Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse has released new guidance that it says will promote safe use, storage and disposal of opioids.

“These new recommendations can further reduce the amount of unwanted, unused and expired medications — making their diversion to nonmedical use much less likely,” Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees and chair of the Task Force, said in a press release. “By taking these important steps, physicians can communicate common-sense approaches to their patients that can directly reduce the potential for harm.”

The guidelines include:

talking to patients about how opioid analgesics should only be taken as directed;

reminding patients that medications should be stored out of reach of children and in a safe, preferably locked place; and

urging patients to dispose of unused medications properly, preferably by using a local “take back” program, mail back program or medication drop box at a police station, DEA-authorized collection site or a pharmacy that has a secure drop-box program.

The recommendations are part of the task force’s ongoing efforts to empower and enable physicians to take steps that can help reverse the nation’s opioid epidemic, according to the release.

The AMA has previously noted that in 2015, 2 million Americans had a substance use disorder involving opioid analgesics. In addition, almost 600,000 people have a substance use disorder involving heroin and more than 33,000 Americans died in 2015 due to an opioid-related overdose. Other data, cited by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, show that inpatient stays related to opioid use went up 64.1% between 2005 and 2014; opioid-related ED visits went up 99.4% between 2005 and 2014; and overdose deaths involving opioids went up 200% between 2000 and 2014.

According to the AMA, April 29 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which attempts to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs.

References: Safe Storage and Disposal of Opioids (accessed 04-18-17)

Disclosure: Healio Family Medicine was unable to determine Harris’ relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.