Prevent prescription opioid misuse with proper use, storage, and disposal.
Using prescription opioids safely
While prescription opioids can be safe and effective to reduce pain, they can also have serious side effects, including risk of use disorder and overdose.
- Prescription Opioids: What You Need to Know, a CDC factsheet, describes the risks and side effects of opioid medications and other options for managing pain.
- Opioid Medication & Pain: What You Need to Know, and in Spanish, from the Bree Collaborative
- WA Department of Health has a helpful FAQ on safe use and storage of prescription opioids
Opioid prescribing in WA State
YOU are the only one who should have access to your prescription medications. To keep prescription opioids away from children, youth and other adults in your home:
- Don’t leave opioid medications where children or visitors can easily see them such as counter tops, tables, or nightstands. Never store prescription pain medicine in a bathroom medicine cabinet.
- Don’t keep loose pills in a purse, backpack, or unlocked drawer.
- Lock your medication in a drawer, special medication lock box or lockable tool or tackle box. Hide the key away from the storage area.
- Keep a count of your opioid pills so you will know if any go missing.
- Always dispose of any medication you no longer need.
Learn more from WA’s Starts with One campaign.
Disposing of prescription opioids
To protect the environment, never flush medications.
Return unwanted medications to a safe disposal take-back program. Many police departments and pharmacies across WA State sponsor medication take-back programs:
If you can’t access an official disposal site, this is a “last resort” method to throw medications in the garbage:
- Keep the medicine in its original childproof and watertight bottle.
- To deter any use, add some kitty litter or coffee grounds to the bottle and tape the bottle shut.
- Place the bottle in a sealable bag, and then inside in a non-clear container so the contents cannot be seen.
- Put the container in the garbage, not in the recycling bin.
To learn more about safe storage and disposal of medicines:
- King County’s Don’t Hang Onto Meds campaign
Medication stewardship in WA State
Washington State’s pharmaceutical stewardship law, HB 1047, creates a program to fund the safe disposal of medications in the state. Drug manufacturers who sell medicines for residential use will be required to fund and operate secure medicine drop-off locations at pharmacies and law enforcement offices throughout the county.
To learn more check out the Department of Health’s Drug Take-Back Program page.
Prevention for youth
For more information about preventing prescription drug abuse among youth:
The MedicineAbuseProject is a national campaign to prevent teens from abusing medicines. Includes information about prevention of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse, safeguarding medicines at home, and education resources for parents, teachers, health care providers and community coalitions. Sponsored by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing teen substance abuse and supporting families impacted by addiction.
The Athena Forum is a portal for WA State substance use prevention professionals containing: best practices, materials, tools, training opportunities and online discussions, including resources on prescription drug misuse prevention. This site is also the place to go for information about state initiatives and the Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI).
NIDA for Teens is sponsored by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to educate adolescents ages 11 through 15 on the science behind drug abuse. Features many videos and games, and a drugs & health blog. There are also a section for teachers, featuring lesson plans and activities, as well as one for parents that advice on how to talk to kids about drugs.
Safety First – a Reality Based Approach to Teens and Drugs, from the Drug Policy Alliance, helps parents evaluate strategies and take a pragmatic approach to protecting their teenagers from drug misuse.
Start Talking Now, tools for parents to talk to youth about substance use.