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Addiction Prevention

If you have any concern that a loved one has the potential of abusing opioids, always have Narcan available in case of an overdose. Narcan Is now available over the counter in 46 States. Narcan is the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose. (If you have a prescription, you can buy Narcan in any state.) Go to for complete information on this drug that can save lives.

Opioids are safest when used for three or fewer days to manage acute pain, such as pain that follows surgery or a bone fracture. Or longer term for a cancer patient in extreme pain. If you need opioids for acute pain, work with your doctor to take the lowest dose possible, for the shortest time needed, exactly as prescribed.

If you're living with chronic pain, opioids are not likely to be a safe and effective long-term treatment option. Many other treatments are available, including less-addictive pain medications and nonpharmacological therapies. Aim for a treatment plan that makes it possible to enjoy your life without opioids, if possible.

You play a critical role in ensuring your safety while taking opioids. Your doctor and pharmacist can't help you stay safe if they don't have complete and current information about all your medications.

Opioids can affect your thinking and judgment. Even when you take an opioid medication as prescribed, you might make decisions too quickly, without thinking things through. You may think you're OK and you're making good decisions when you're not. You may take risks and put yourself and others in danger.

If you have a loved one that are taking opioids, become involved and track if they are following the prescription instructions.

Heroin is involved in many of the opioid-related deaths, but addiction doesn’t always begin with the use of illicit drugs. Studies have shown that two in three people who currently use heroin started out by using prescription pain medications for nonmedical purposes. Many first-time encounters with opioids happen in homes with leftover medications that were initially prescribed by a physician.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that two-thirds of surgical patients end up with unused pain medications, such as oxycodone and morphine, after recovering from a procedure. Because most of us aren’t educated about the risks of keeping unused medication in our homes, these prescribed drugs are often neither secured or disposed of properly but stashed in medicine cabinets and bedside table drawers because it seems wasteful to throw them away and we keep them around “just in case.” Getting rid of a bottle of pills may seem like a shuffle step on the long path toward addressing the opioid crisis but decreasing access to these medications is as crucial as it is easy. 

If you or a loved one are taking opioids or talking with your doctor about this treatment option, now is the time to plan for safe use and disposal of these medications. Don't leave unused opioids in your medicine cabinet "just in case.

Don't give your unused medications to your friends and don't throw them away. While some types of prescription drugs can be disposed of in your household trash, the FDA says that opioids are too dangerous to go out with your garbage because even one dose to the wrong person can sometimes be fatal.

Help prevent addiction in your family and community by safeguarding opioid medications while you use them and disposing of unused opioids properly. Contact your local law enforcement agency, your trash and recycling service, or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for information about local medication takeback programs. If no takeback program is available in your area, consult your pharmacist for guidance.

In light of the problem, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007 established its first set of guidelines for how consumers should dispose of prescription drugs. First and foremost, consumers should follow any specific disposal instructions on a drug’s label or the patient information that accompanies the medication—and shouldn’t flush the drugs down the toilet. If there are no disposal instructions, the FDA recommends finding out from your municipality if any take-back programs are in place. Also, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Days across the country at various sites a few times a year.

Stay on the lookout for signs of trouble. Don't try to go off opioids cold turkey, on your own. That's a recipe for failure and puts you at risk of serious health consequences. If you've become dependent on opioids or prefer to stop using them, ask your doctor to help you taper off. There are many nonopioid alternatives to help you manage your pain.

Visit the Addiction Resource Center or Call 24 hours a day 1-833-301-HELP (4357)