By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The FDA has launched a national education campaign to help Americans learn about the importance of properly removing from the home and disposing of unused opioids.

The “Remove the Risk” toolkit includes videos, fact sheets, and other resources that can help Americans learn about the dangers of addiction while reducing exposure to possible triggers like unused opioids. In 2017, pharmacies filled more than 190 million opioid prescriptions. Often, patients do not finish taking all their prescribed pain pills; data show that many who misuse or abuse opioids obtain those medications from leftover stashes that belong to friends or family.

“If every household removed prescription opioids once they’re no longer medically needed for their prescribed purpose it would have a major impact on the opioid crisis’ hold on American families and communities,” Amy Abernethy, MD, principal deputy commissioner at the FDA, said in a statement.

The new campaign, which includes information about how and where to dispose of unused opioids, is targeted to women 35-64 years of age, a group the FDA says often serves as gatekeepers to medications and oversees other household healthcare decisions. This initiative is just the latest piece of the federal government’s ongoing “5-Point Opioid Strategy.” Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, recently urged her fellow medical practitioners to join the fight against the opioid epidemic.

“We can no longer turn our back on this population. Our family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors are dying. We have the tools at our disposal. Unlike other conditions, for this one, we have a clear evidence-base which tells us what to do; we have the people trained and ready to do it, so let us take collective action and do so,” she wrote this week. “Our citizens deserve more than we have been giving them.”

The upcoming June issue of Same-Day Surgery includes a series of articles about how healthcare professionals can help the cause. For example, author Melinda Young’s cover story explains how surgeons nationwide are developing opioid-sparing methods to help surgical patients avoid narcotic misuse and abuse. In another article, Young writes about how surgeons are helping patients manage their pain, including education about setting reasonable expectations about pain severity.

For even more information about how to battle the opioid epidemic, be sure to check out these episodes of the Relias Media podcast series “Rounds With Relias,” along with The Opioid Epidemic 2018: Policies, Treatments, Alternatives.