AMA Opioid Task Force Issues Safe Storage, Disposal Resource

AAFP Continues to Provide Members With Updated Opioid Assets

April 10, 2017 02:50 pm Chris Crawford

The AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse, of which the AAFP is a member, has released a new resource(161 KB PDF) family physicians can use to promote safe use, storage and disposal of opioids and other medications.

The two-page electronic document suggests a three-step process family physicians can use when talking about these issues with their patients:

  1. Educate them about safe use of prescription opioids, including ensuring that they are used only by the person for whom they are prescribed.
  2. Remind them that medications should be stored in a safe place out of reach of children.
  3. Discuss with them the most appropriate way to dispose of expired, unwanted and unused medications.

Robert "Chuck" Rich, M.D., of Bladenboro, N.C., the AAFP's representative on the AMA task force, told AAFP News the most common source of prescription opioids that are misused, particularly by adolescents and young adults, is the home medicine cabinet or other medication storage area.

Story highlights
  • The AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse has released a new resource family physicians can use to promote safe storage and disposal of opioids.
  • The AAFP remains committed to providing family physicians with timely, relevant resources to help them combat the opioid abuse epidemic.
  • Family physicians can remind patients that April 29 is the DEA's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Rich said any prescription opioid pain reliever or other controlled medication is subject to being misused if not stored away from areas of easy access. Unfortunately, people who might misuse these drugs include family members or guests who may go into a bathroom during a visit with the intent of looking for unsecured medication bottles.

"It happens all too frequently when those bottles are left in an unsecured location where someone could open and access the content of the bottles during a brief visit to the bathroom," he said.

Rich said he reminds patients about safe opioid use, storage and disposal by posting information on bulletin boards along with other patient information in his clinic's exam rooms. He also hands out opioid informational materials with prescriptions or when patients are asked to complete opioid risk screening tools or pain assessment scales.

Additionally, Rich said he usually cautions patients about misuse and abuse of opioids when he discusses the pros and cons of continued opioid therapy for patients with chronic pain.

The AMA task force's resource also includes links physicians and patients can use to access local drug disposal operations and FDA resources on proper disposal of unused medications.

Rich said the items he found most helpful were links to a search tool that allows users to locate nearby DEA drug disposal locations( and to the FDA's guide on how to dispose of unused medicines.(

What's Been Your Experience With Opioid Treatment?

AAFP News is interested in hearing from family physicians about their experiences prescribing opioids for pain management.

So whether these are success stories, tales about barriers to treatment or specific questions about best practices, please share them in the "Comments" section below.

"I would remind our membership to be cognizant of the safe disposal options available in their individual communities, advocate for the expansion of those options, and reinforce the message of safe storage and disposal, as this flyer does," he said.

"I cannot emphasize enough the danger that an unsecured medication bottle in the home medicine cabinet represents, including the possible overdose and death of a family member, neighbor or guest."

AAFP Resources on Pain Management, Opioids

The AAFP remains committed to providing family physicians with timely, relevant resources to help them combat the opioid abuse epidemic. Among those resources are a chronic pain management toolkit and a free CME webcast focused on chronic opioid therapy.

Also featured is the Academy's "Chronic Pain Management and Opioid Misuse: A Public Health Concern" position paper, which was updated last summer.

Other AAFP resources on pain management and opioid abuse include articles in American Family Physician, Family Practice Management and Annals of Family Medicine, as well as patient information from on safe use, storage and disposal of opioid drugs.(

No Time Like the Present

Coincidentally, now's a great time to encourage patients to clean out their medicine cabinets.

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids recently released simple tips family physicians can pass along to patients on how to spring clean their medicine cabinets.(

And physicians can also remind patients that April 29 is the DEA's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.( can visit the DEA website to find law enforcement departments in their area where they may dispose of prescription medications they no longer need.

Related AAFP News Coverage
Annals of Family Medicine Research
Discussing Opioid Risks May Reduce Likelihood of Misuse, Abuse


2016 State Legislative Conference
Variety of State Regulations Take Aim at Opioid Abuse


Search and Rescue Campaign Aims to Educate Opioid Prescribers

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