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Oxycontin Abusers Often Rely on 'Leftover' Meds From Friends
Date:2/18/2010

Utah study emphasizes need for unused pills to be tossed out, experts say,,

THURSDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Almost all people who illegally use or abuse opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin or Vicodin get the drugs from a friend or relative who had a prescription, a new report shows.

In the study, which involved a 2008 survey of more than 5,300 Utah adults, almost 2 percent of respondents said they had taken an opioid pain medicine not prescribed to them over the past year.

Ninety-seven percent of the time, the drug came from a friend or relative, and in most cases the drug was handed over willingly.

The study is published in the Feb. 19 issue of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Many Utah residents do have at least one prescription for opioid painkillers, according to the Utah Department of Health researchers.

"We found that one in five patients are prescribed opioids and the majority of those have leftover medication," said report co-author Erin Johnson, project coodinator for the department's Pain Medication Management & Education Program.

The majority of patients (71 percent) keep their leftover medication, she added.

Johnson and her team warned that holding on to unused prescription opioid painkillers can result in fatal overdoses, especially among people who were not prescribed the drugs.

According to the report, 85.2 percent of people who used an opioid without a prescription said the drug was given to them by someone who did have a prescription, and 9.8 percent said they took the medication without the knowledge or permission of the owner. Only 4.1 percent said they had bought the drug.

"With all these excess pills, there is a great likelihood of misuse and abuse that could result from that," Johnson said. "So dispose of your leftover pain medication immediately," she added
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