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Limiting Prescription Opioid Misuse

Find out what steps SelectHealth is taking to help combat the current opioid epidemic.

Pill bottles, Trying to Limit Prescription Opioid Misuse

Prescription narcotic misuse and abuse is a national epidemic, and research suggests that the storage of excess pain medication is the number one source of opioid misuse. It’s far too common for someone to find possibly dangerous and addictive prescription drugs looming in the family medicine cabinet. Studies have shown that two-thirds of all opioids misused and abused come from family members or friends.


The critical task is educating the community that there is no such thing as safe leftover medications. To help combat the epidemic, SelectHealth began limiting initial fills of opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days—this measure went into effect on September 1, 2017.

Related: Opioid Tablets Being Reduced at Intermountain Healthcare

These prescription drugs are commonly written for a 10- or 30-day supply, but recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that more than seven days is rarely needed, and three days or less is often sufficient.  

Expert studies note that each day of unnecessary opioid use increases the likelihood of physical dependence without added benefit. In fact, an initial opioid fill, or authorized second fill, greater than seven days doubles the likelihood of opioid use one year later.  

The SelectHealth policy could lessen nonmedical exposure to prescription opioids and potentially reduce dependency and abuse. Along with limiting oversupply of prescription opioids, proper disposal minimizes the source of prescription diversion. SelectHealth partners with Intermountain Medical Group to support initiatives for patient and member education and community organizations aimed at reducing opioid misuse and abuse.  

Related: Utah's Opioid Epidemic

“We have medication take-back events every day,” said Buck Stanford, Intermountain System Pharmacy Operations Director. “We have collected over 15,000 pounds of unused medication since our program started. Our pharmacies were the first health system in the U.S. to invest in this program. We are essentially a supplement to the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back program throughout the year.”

Stanford added that anyone can dispose of medications at Intermountain Community Pharmacies, which serve as an extension of many Intermountain hospitals and clinics with collection sites. 

For more information about opioids and safe disposal, including drop box locations, visit useonlyasdirected.org.


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The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

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Carrie Brown