Patient Education on Opioid Storage, Security, and Disposal of Opioids: Should the Approach Differ in Rural and Urban Settings? Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose: The opioid crisis is devastating rural America, but findings of opioid utilization vary among previous studies. Previous studies were focused on misuse behaviors or overdose issues. This study will focus on the number of pills and prescriptions that rural and urban adults received. Methods: Using the adult data of the 2011-2016 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, we compared rural-urban differences in likelihood of using opioids and actual utilization. Multivariate models were further adjusted for predisposing, enabling and need factors. Results: During 2011-2016, opioid utilization decreased in both urban and rural areas. However, rural adults were still more likely to have a prescription, and among users, rural adult prescription pill count was higher than urban counterparts. The rural-urban difference was not significant after adjusting for covariates, indicating that personal and contextual characteristics account for more variations in utilization than rurality. Conclusions: Strategies to improve pain management without causing opioid addiction and overdose deaths are imperative. The findings of unadjusted analyses suggest: (1) providing counseling to teach rural adults to store opioids in a locked container, not share medication with others and safely dispose of unused pills; (2) reinforcing the mail-back program or giving patients a specially-designed package to neutralize the drugs; and (3) if a community-based drug-disposal program is not available, educating to remove labeling from the bottle, mix the drugs with an unpleasant substance, and place the drugs and unpleasant substance in the garbage separate from the bottle. The findings of adjusted analyses indicate that another study will be helpful to explore the associations between personal characteristics and opioid utilization in depth.

published proceedings

  • Texas Journal of Health-System Pharmacy

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, W., Hutchison, R., Lin, S., & Kuo, Y.

complete list of authors

  • Lee, Wei-Chen||Hutchison, Robert||Lin, Sherry||Kuo, Yong-Fang

publication date

  • October 2020