Tom fell off a ladder and hurt his back. His doctor gave him a prescription for Percocet, a powerful opioid painkiller. He only took a couple and now he’s got ten pills left over in a bottle sitting in his medicine cabinet.
If this scenario (or a similar one) describes your opioid prescription experience, you’re not alone. In fact, researchers found more than 50 percent of the people prescribed opioids have leftovers. What’s wrong with that? Nothing…until you share them.
Your Pills Aren’t Candy
A recent study revealed that twenty percent of people with leftover pills share their medications. And it’s pretty easy to see how this happens.
Let’s say your friend’s in pain from a recent accident. He doesn’t want (or can’t afford) to see a doctor. You think, “I have those pills just sitting there. I’ll give him two or three to help him get through the pain.”
Or maybe your spouse gets a terrible toothache. You think, “Why waste those pills? I’ll give her some so she can sleep. We see the same doctor anyway.”
Sounds harmless, right? Wrong.
The Worst Favor You Can Do
The problem is, those pills were prescribed with a specific person in mind. You. Your medical history, current health, weight and illness were considered when that prescription was written. Handing them over to someone else with an entirely different set of concerns can be lethal. Even if you (and the other person) believe that it’s safe, it’s a terrible idea.
Opiates are very potent painkillers and, when misused, can result in overdose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that more than three out of five overdose deaths involve an opioid.
When someone who hasn’t received a prescription starts popping someone else’s pills, it’s very dangerous. They could be on other medications that create a deadly combination. They may have other health concerns that will be affected by the pills. They may simply take too many, unaware of the danger because a doctor didn’t consult with them about their use. Ultimately, it’s not worth the risk.
Hey Doc, How About Lending a Hand?
People sharing their extra pills put others at risk, whether they realize it or not. But a few simple steps can be taken to help with this issue – mainly by the doctors who prescribe the medications. A few of those ideas include:
- Doctors can prescribe fewer pills.
- Doctors can take the time to educate people about the dangers of sharing medications.
- Doctors can discuss the proper disposal of leftover pills (One study found that over 50 percent of patients were never given information about safe storage or proper disposal of leftovers.)
Additional Reading: Am I Addicted to Pain Killers? How Can I Quit Safely?
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