Framing Cancer Survivors’ Access to and Use and Disposal of Prescribed Opioids Within the Opioid Epidemic

Victoria K. Marshall

Melody N. Chavez

Khary K. Rigg

Barbara Lubrano di Ciccone

Sahana Rajasekhara

Andrea Efre

Dina Martinez Tyson

cancer survivorship, opioids, disposal, safe handling, storage
ONF 2022, 50(1), 25-34. DOI: 10.1188/23.ONF.25-34

Purpose: To explore cancer survivors’ access to and use and disposal of opioids in the context of the opioid epidemic.

Participants & Setting: Community-based recruitment strategies were employed for individuals aged 18 years or older who were previously diagnosed with cancer, completed cancer treatment within the past five years, or were cancer free, and who were prescribed opioids for cancer-related pain.

Methodologic Approach: This qualitative study used semistructured interviews. Data were analyzed using applied thematic analysis techniques.

Findings: Themes included the following: (a) restrictive policies affecting opioid access and supply, (b) decreased opioid use because of concerns of addiction and other opioid-related side effects, and (c) lack of clarity on safeguarding and disposal of opioids.

Implications for Nursing: Cancer survivors may encounter barriers to opioid access, alter medication-taking behavior over fear of addiction and side effects, and face inadequate education regarding proper disposal of opioids. Nurses can advocate for appropriate access to prescribed opioids, assess opioid-taking behavior, provide education regarding storage and disposal, and implement educational interventions accordingly.

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