Encouraging disposal of unused opioid analgesics in Appalachia

Donald W. Helme, Kathleen L. Egan, Kaylee M. Lukacena, Lauren Roberson, Carina Mazariegos Zelaya, Monique Shauntell McLeary, Mark Wolfson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Appalachian region has been disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic. This study, informed by the Health Belief Model (HBM), explored Appalachian community members’ perspectives on prescription opioid misuse and community-based programs to dispose of unused opioid analgesics. In 2018, we conducted ten focus groups (n = 94 participants) in 5 Appalachian counties. Thirteen themes across 5 of the HBM constructs emerged from our analysis. Participants perceived that their communities are susceptible to the harms associated with opioid misuse, these harms are serious, suggesting they could be motivated to change disposal behaviors. Many participants recognized the benefit of disposing unused prescription opioids including protecting household members from misusing and protecting the home from robbery. Nevertheless, participants identified barriers to proper disposal, including keeping the medications ‘just in case’ for future ailments and the location of drop boxes near law enforcement (due to deep-seated mistrust of law enforcement agencies). Self-efficacy was difficult to assess as many participants were completely unaware of the presence of dropboxes in the community and also expressed concerns about the inconvenience of proper disposal using dropboxes These findings have implications for developing community-based campaign messages promoting proper disposal of unused opioids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-415
Number of pages9
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UL1TR001998 (D. Helme and M. Wolfson, Principal Investigators).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Health Belief Model
  • Opioids
  • communication
  • disposal
  • opioid
  • prescription drugs
  • prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)


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