Journal scan

Educating patients on the safe use of opioids to cut diversion and accidental poisoning

Providing patients who have been prescribed opioid analgesia with educational materials on the prudent use, storage and disposal of the medication can improve knowledge and behaviour – and reduce the misuse and abuse of such drugs.


Providing patients on opioid analgesia with extra information on their medication helps reduce the misuse of such drugs. Photo: SPL

In this prospective analysis, 300 adult patients attending a palliative care clinic were provided with a two-page handout detailing important information about their opioid medication, as well as personal review and counsel of that content with a qualified practitioner.

A self-administered survey was subsequently distributed to the participants to assess the utility of the educational material. The questionnaire also included demographic details, and particulars about previous or predilection for alcoholism and drug use, which could be associated with issues or problems with the prescription of opioids.

After the intervention, the results suggested a change in attitude and behaviour in that fewer patients shared their medication with others, or reported unsafe use. The findings also showed that patients were more aware of the need to store their medicines in a safe place – hidden or locked, for example – and how to dispose more carefully of their unused medication.

Patients suggested that professional clinic staff were the source of their education (42%), though other staff (28%), family and friends (3%) and the media (27% of those responding to the question) were also important suppliers of information.

De la Cruz M, Reddy A, Balankari V, et al (2017) The impact of an educational program on patient practices for safe use, storage, and disposal of opioids at a comprehensive cancer centre. Oncologist. 22, 1, 115-121.

Journal scan is ​compiled by Dion Smyth, lecturer-practitioner in cancer and palliative care, Birmingham City University

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs