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As lawmakers grapple with how best to combat the nation’s prescription painkiller abuse crisis, a recent survey is shedding light on how patients who get these medications  — drugs such as OxyContin, methadone or Vicodin — sometimes share or mishandle them.

According to findings detailed in a research letter published Monday inJAMA Internal Medicine, about one in five people who were prescribed the highly addictive drugs reported having shared their meds with a friend, often to help the other person manage pain. Most people with a prescription either had or expected to have extra pills left after finishing treatment. And almost 50 percent didn’t know how to safely get rid of the drugs left over after their treatment was complete, or how to store them while going through treatment.

The study’s authors suggested that the results point to changes doctors could make in prescribing practices and counseling to help alleviate the problems.

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