The present opioid epidemic in the United States is a significant cause for concern in healthcare. In 1995, the concept of pain was introduced as the fifth vital sign. Since then, the sales of opioids have increased dramatically, as have the number of opioid deaths. The misuse and diversion of retained opioids following surgical procedures contribute to the problem. The objective of this project was to review the latest scholarly work and evaluate the findings related to patient education and disposal of opioid medications to decrease opioid misuse and increase disposal.
A systematic review.
The systematic search strategy included PubMed, Ovid Technologies (OVID), and Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) electronic databases.
A total of 4 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 2 quasi-experimental studies, and 2 quality improvement projects met the criteria for inclusion. The studies found that as many as 92% of patients had leftover unused opioids. The retention rate of opioids among surgical patients was found to be 33 to 95%. When educational material was provided about disposal, the studies found that the disposal rate was as high as 71%.
Patient education about opioid misuse, diversion, and disposal are essential topics that need to be addressed with patients and caregivers.

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