Survey looks at use of leftover pain meds

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

One in five people in Utah have been prescribed pain medication in the past year, according to new figures from the Morbidty and Mortality Weekly report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the survey only takes into account the use of pain medications in Utah, the CDC notes that “This percentage is comparable to the 18.4% of insured persons aged ≥18 years who reported receiving a prescription for opioids in a national study in 2002.”

The report says that deaths in Utah as a result of  “poisoning by prescription pain medications” increased nearly 600 percent from 1999 to 2007.  It also looks at the problem of leftover medication and people using medications not prescribed to them:

An estimated 72% of respondents who were prescribed an opioid had leftover medication, and 71% of those with leftover medication kept it; during the same period, 97% of those who used opioids that were not prescribed to them said they received them from friends or relatives.

The state has set out some recommendations for health care providers aimed at reducing the availability of unused medications.

The data comes from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an on-going telephone survey system that collects information about health risk behaviors, preventive health practices and health care access. Utah is apparently the first state to include pain medication questions in the BRFSS, “although Kansas added a module of questions regarding chronic pain in 2005 and 2007 with one follow-up question asking how the pain was treated.”

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