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  1. Aliory, Christine D.
  2. Robberts, Michelle
  3. Bos, Devin
  4. Mangold, Kara
  5. Snedigar, Sally
  6. Girardo, Marlene


BACKGROUND: Every day, more than 190 people in the United States die from opioid overdose. Unused opioid medications pose a risk to the patient and the community as they increase the potential for abuse or misuse. A contributing factor is lack of education on the proper disposal methods of unused opioid medications.


PURPOSE: The purpose of this quasi-experimental nursing study was to examine whether providing education on proper disposal of opioid medications would increase the proportion of patients who properly dispose of unused opioids.


METHODS: The study site's mandatory orthopaedic preoperative class was used for consenting patients. The control group did not receive targeted education on opioid disposal, whereas the intervention group did receive targeted education. A total of 86 patients were consented during Months 1 and 2 of the study. Forty-one patients were in the control group and 45 were in the intervention group. Demographic variables such as age, gender, and marital status were collected to determine whether certain demographic factors had an influence over whether or not opioids would be disposed of properly.


FINDINGS: Those in the intervention group who attended the class were slightly younger than those in the control group (68.2 +/- 9.9 years vs. 70.3 +/- 10.6 years, p = .5098), primarily male (57.5% vs. 35.0%, p = .0436), and more likely to live with a significant other (94.7% vs. 74.4%, p = .0249). Of those who had medication left over, 62.5% disposed of their unused opioid prescription in the intervention group compared with 40.7% in the control group (p = .1208). In the intervention group, 86.7% of the individuals with leftover medication disposed of it correctly compared with 63.5% in the control group (p = .3478).


CONCLUSION: Those who received education on appropriate opioid disposal were more likely to dispose of it in general as well as dispose of it correctly. Although not statistically significant, the findings from this study are clinically significant in that they provide direction on the importance of standardized and focused patient education on proper opioid disposal.