Almost half of parents whose child had unused prescription opioid painkillers left over from a surgery or illness keep the medication at home, a new poll finds.
Parents who have a discussion with their child’s doctor about how to properly dispose of the medication are much more likely to do so, the poll found.
Researchers from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, polled nearly 1,200 parents with at least one child ages 5 to 17. They found about one-third of parents said their children had received pain medication prescriptions, mostly for opioids such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, HealthDay reports.
Only 8 percent of parents said they returned the unused medication to a pharmacy or doctor, while 30 percent disposed of the drugs in the trash or toilet, and 6 percent said other family members used the medication. Nine percent said they didn’t remember where the medications went.
Only one-third of parents said they had a discussion with their child’s doctor about what to do with the leftover medication. Among parents who had such a discussion, only 26 percent still had leftover pills at home. In contrast, 56 percent of parents who did not talk with their child’s doctor about disposing of leftover medication kept the extra medicine at home.
“We found that the amount of pain medication prescribed for children is frequently greater than the amount used, and too few parents recall clear direction from their provider about what to do with leftover medication,” lead researcher Sarah Clark said in a news release.
“This is a missed opportunity to prevent prescription drug misuse among children,” she added. “Many parents simply keep extra pain pills in their home. Those leftover pills represent easy access to narcotics for teens and their friends.”