Unused Opioids: How Many is too Many?

In 2015, there were 33,000 opioid related deaths in the United States. Of those 33,000, roughly half were involving a prescription opioid.

A group of accredited researchers carried out a study to monitor the defined behavior of patients prescribed opiates following a wisdom teeth removal surgery. Variables included a control group- patients were given instructions for proper dosage, along with a list of potential side effects and a drug disposal hotline number. The second group received information about a pharmacy buyback program, offering 20 cents of store credit per pill returned, along with everything the first group received. Throughout the three week study, all participants answered daily text messages asking them to rate their pain and how many opioids they’d taken in the last 24 hours.

67 of the 75 patients had 15 or more of the 28 prescribed pills left over by time their pain rating was ‘low’ (0-3). If the relatively small sample size is extrapolated to every oral surgeon and their wisdom teeth patients, roughly 100 million opioids go unused every year, posing a large problem to everyone involved.