80% of Americans can't accurately identify opioids, study finds

Most Americans could not accurately distinguish opioids from other types of medications in a recent survey conducted by health IT company DrFirst, a finding that is particularly problematic as the opioid crisis continues to be exacerbated by the pandemic.

The survey was conducted online June 16-19 and included 1,002 Americans over age 18. While three-quarters of Americans believe they can recognize whether or not they have been prescribed an opioid, only 1 in 5 of these participants could correctly identify seven commonly prescribed opioids.

Additionally, the study found that a significant number of participants misidentified non-opioid containing prescriptions as opioids, with 73 percent of respondents inaccurately classifying oxytocin, a drug used to induce labor. More than half of participants also miscategorized oxymetazoline, a drug used to stop nosebleeds, and 46 percent falsely said antidepressant trazodone was an opioid. 

Survey responses also revealed that only 23 percent of Americans who were prescribed an opioid in the past 12 months reported storing the prescription in a locked cabinet, which is the storage method safety experts recommend to mitigate addiction among close friends and family members.

DrFirst's vice president of clinical product solutions, Colin Banas, MD, said the study "should be a wake-up call to physicians and pharmacists, who should not assume their patients know this information" in an Aug. 20 news release.

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