AARP: 3 in 4 older adults support opioid prescription limits

A majority of older Americans support limits on the opioids their physician would be able to prescribe for them in their efforts to curb the opioid epidemic, according to a new AARP and Michigan Medicine National Poll on Healthy Aging.

Conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, the poll of more than 2,000 adults between the ages of 50 and 80 found nearly 30% had a prescription for an opioid filled within the last two years.

The most common reasons for an opioid prescription were arthritis-related pain, back pain, surgery or injury. The vast majority (86%) indicated they kept the leftover pills for future use.

Seniors also indicated their prescribing physicians spoke to them about the risk of addiction, risk of overdose and what to do with leftover pills less than half the time.

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Officials said the findings could be used to help guide providers and policymakers in decisions about curbing opioid misuse.

“We know that unused opioid medications that linger in homes are one of the primary pathways to diversion, misuse, abuse and dependence. As prescribers, we must find opportunities to discuss safe opioid use, storage and disposal with our patients,” says Jennifer Waljee, M.D., co-director of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network. “It is critically important to provide a detailed plan for patients who get opioids for pain management and resources for disposal.”

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Older adults indicated support for policies aimed at curbing opioid use, to a point; 4 out of 5 seniors said they support mandates for special provider training to prescribe opioid medications and 54% support policies which require providers review prescription records to assess patient risk.

About half would support requiring patients to disclose prior opioid medication use.

Fewer than half of seniors support a requirement to require the return of unused medications, and 3 in 4 seniors support the limits on total number of days and pills that can be prescribed.