In outpatients with advanced cancer, the use of an educational program on opioid safety improved patient-reported safe opioid use, storage, and disposal, according to a study published in the journal The Oncologist.1

Previous research has demonstrated that a large proportion of cancer patients have unsafe opioid practices, which can potentially lead to diversion or accidental poisoning. Therefore, researchers sought to assess whether the implementation of a patient educational program would improve patterns in the use, storage, and disposal of opioids among cancer outpatients.

For the study, investigators enrolled 600 adult cancer outpatients receiving opioids in a palliative care clinic. Participants were assigned 1:1 to undergo the educational intervention, which included the distribution of educational material on safe opioid use, storage, and disposal every time a patient received an opioid prescription.

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Results showed that patients who received educational material were significantly more aware of the proper opioid disposal methods (P ≤.0001) and more likely to be aware of the potential danger of their opioids being taken by others (P =.0099).

In addition, researchers found that patients who participated in the educational program were significantly less likely to share their opioids with someone else (P =.0344) and less likely to practice unsafe use of opioids, defined as sharing or losing their opioids (P =.0311).

The study further demonstrated that patients who received educational material were less likely to have unused medication at home (P =.0497) and more likely to keep their medication hidden or locked in a safe place (P =.0025).

This study ultimately underscores the importance of including opioid education at every instance in which patients are prescribed opioids for their cancer pain.


1. de la Cruz M, Reddy A, Balankari V, et al. The impact of an educational program on patient practices for safe use, storage, and disposal of opioids at a comprehensive cancer center. Oncologist. 2016 Oct 14. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2016-0266. [Epub ahead of print]