Open Accessibility Menu

What You Can Do to Prevent Opioid Misuse

  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Donna Nordstrom, RN, BSN, MS

Printed in the August 27, 2020 issue of the Worcester County Times

August 30, 2020 is recognized as Opioid Misuse Prevention Day. This observance, across the United States, is a great opportunity to share useful tools to better serve our communities affected by the opioid epidemic. According to the CDC, almost 40 percent of people who misuse opioids obtain them from a family member or friend. An alarming 128 persons die every day from an overdose related to opioids. There is no easy solution to the opioid epidemic. However, through community partnerships and joined efforts we can work together to address the crisis. An important step in preventing opioid addiction is to learn about prescription opioids and how to prevent opioid misuse.

What is a prescription opioid? Prescription opioids are strong pain-reducing medications. Common prescription opioids names include: hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, codeine, morphine, methadone and fentanyl. Prescription opioids can be used to help relieve moderate-to-severe pain and are often prescribed following an injury or surgical procedure, or for certain health conditions. Pain is a common medical problem that can be treated. Living with chronic pain can be devastating and can affect one’s ability to complete daily tasks. According to the CDC, as many as 1 in 4 people receiving prescription opioids long term in a primary care setting struggles with addiction. Prescription opioids can be an important part of a patient’s treatment plan. However, if you or a loved one is prescribed opioids for pain, there are certain responsibilities to follow to help ensure safe effective pain management:

  1. Work with your doctor.

Your health and safety are important to your doctor and health care team. Your doctor wants to provide the best possible treatment for your condition. Working closely with your doctor, you can develop pain management goals and an action plan right for you. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking an opioid medication and make the most informed decision together. Tell your doctor about your pain and if your pain is not resolving. Share your treatment preferences and ask your doctor about alternative pain therapies, such as non-opioid medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, physical therapy, massage, relaxation, yoga, music therapy, etc. If you are prescribed an opioid, it is important to talk with your doctor about how long you will need to take the medication and how you will work together to stop taking the medication. Keep regular appointments with your doctor. Keep an up-to-date list of your medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, such as vitamins and dietary/herbal supplements and bring your current list to doctor appointments and pharmacy visits.

  1. Take and store opioids properly.

Only take an opioid medication as prescribed. Do not share, give away, or sell prescription opioids. Prescription opioids should be stored in a safe secure place and out of reach of others, in a preferably locked place. This means not only out of the reach of children, but also inaccessible to family, friends, and visitors. Do not take prescription opioids with alcohol and other medications which include: benzodiazepines or anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxers, hypnotics or sleeping pills, or combined with other prescription opioids. Review your medicines at least every six months and safely dispose of all expired, unused or unwanted medications as soon as possible.

For more information about the risks of opioids and things you can do to prevent abuse and misuse, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For more information on safe medicine storage visit and disposal locations in your area by visiting

If you believe you may be struggling with addiction, talk to your doctor and ask for guidance. Or, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

For local substance abuse services or peer support resources, contact your local health department, call Maryland 2-1-1, or visit