Southwestern Virginia demonstrates the highest regional mortality rate from prescription opioid overdoses. Nationally, 65% of patients misusing opioid medications received them from friends and family, underscoring the need for effective disposal of unused narcotics.
(1) To understand patient, provider, and medical student beliefs and misconceptions regarding proper methods of opioid disposal; (2) to characterize discrepancies that exist between patient self-reported habits and medical student/provider perceptions of opioid usage, disposal, and diversion.
Descriptive, cross-sectional, observational study.
Large, nonprofit health care organization and allopathic medical school in Southwestern Virginia.
All ambulatory patients 18 years or older presenting for elective consultation at health system orthopedics department; all institutionally employed physicians with active system e-mail addresses; and all current students at the associated medical school.
Patients: The number who had received information regarding proper methods of opioid disposal, intended disposal method, methods of disposal considered appropriate, comfort level with opioid disposal, and demographic data. Physicians and Medical Students: The number who had received instruction regarding proper methods of opioid disposal, acceptable means of opioid disposal, most appropriate disposal method, disposal method most likely to be employed by patients, practice profile/prescribing data, and medical school year.
In total, 64% of patients (n = 255/750) had never received instruction from a physician regarding opioid disposal; 56% of physicians (n = 212/732) and 78% (n = 80/171) of medical students indicated that they never received formal instruction regarding methods of disposal. The majority of physicians believed that their patients are most likely to use in-home methods of disposal or store prescription medications for future use; 61% of patients indicated a preference for accessible disposal facilities.
The discrepancy between patient and physician responses highlights a lack of communication regarding disposal of unused opioid medications and is a target for future intervention.