Developing a health communication campaign for disposal of unused opioid medications

Kathleen L. Egan, Mark Wolfson, Kaylee M. Lukacena, Carina M. Zelaya, Monique S. McLeary, Donald W. Helme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Introduction: Communities throughout the United States have implemented medicine disposal programs to prevent diversion of unused opioid analgesics from homes but a general lack of awareness may contribute to low rates of utilization. The objective of this study was to develop and test community-based campaign messages promoting appropriate disposal of unused opioids at disposal programs. Methods: In Fall 2019, 491 residents (79% female, 97% White, mean age: 40 years) of five rural, Appalachian counties (3 in Kentucky and 2 in North Carolina) completed a web-based, experimental survey. Participants were randomly exposed to two of four messages and rated each message separately. A pretest–posttest design was utilized to assess change in beliefs about retaining unused prescription opioids in the home following exposure to message sets. Results: All messages favorably influenced participants’ perceptions related to concerns and risks of retaining unused prescription opioids and importance of - and self-efficacy in disposing of unused opioid medications. After controlling for social and demographic characteristics and baseline beliefs in generalized linear mixed models, Message 1 outperformed other messages in increasing participants’ concern about retaining unused prescription opioids in the home and Message 3 was most effective in increasing self-efficacy to dispose of unused prescription opioids. Conclusions: Messages including young children and pictorially demonstrate how to dispose of medications may have the greatest impact on behavioral actions related to medication disposal. The findings from this study can be used to inform community-based campaigns to facilitate disposal of unused prescription opioids.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100291
JournalAddictive Behaviors Reports
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s)


  • Communication campaign
  • Disposal
  • Opioid
  • Prescription drug
  • Prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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