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Prevent Opioid Misuse & Overdose

Risk factors for opioid misuse or addiction include past or current substance abuse, untreated psychiatric disorders, younger age, and social or family environments that encourage misuse. Opioid mortality prevalence is higher in people who are middle-aged and have substance abuse and psychiatric comorbidities.(Webster LR. Risk Factors for Opioid-Use Disorder and Overdose. Anesth Analg. 2017 Nov;125(5):1741-1748. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000002496. PMID: 29049118.)

To Avoid Opioid Misuse and Overdose, Use opioids responsibly

CDPH recommends following the guidelines below to help prevent opioid misuse and addiction:

  • Work with your doctor to create a plan on how to manage your pain
  • Use opioid medication only in the form in which it was prescribed and always follow the prescribed directions
  • Follow up regularly with your doctor
  • Never take prescription opioids in greater amounts or more often than prescribed. When taking liquid opioid doses, be sure to use an accurate measuring device and only measure out the prescribed amount.
  • If you miss a dose, do not take a double dose to catch up
  • Always let your doctor know about any side effects or concerns you may have about using opioids.
  • Avoid taking opioids with alcohol and other substances or medications without your doctor’s approval. It is very dangerous to combine opioids with other drugs, especially those that cause drowsiness:
    • Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax® and Valium®)
    • Muscle relaxants (such as Soma® or Flexeril®)
    • Hypnotics (such as Ambien® or Lunesta®)
    • Other prescription opioids
  • Never use another person’s prescription and do not share or sell your prescription opioids.
  • Store prescription opioids in a secure place, out of reach of others (including children, family, friends, and visitors). A medication lockbox is a good option. (See below for more information).
  • Stop taking opioid medications as soon as your doctor agrees they are no longer needed. Dispose of any unused prescription opioids remaining at the end of your treatment (See below for more information).

Safe Storage and Disposal

Safe Storage
You should always safely lock up your opioid medications to keep them out of the hands of someone who may abuse them and to prevent someone in your how from taking the wrong medication.  Storing your prescription painkillers and other medications in a lockbox, safe, or locked medicine cabinet is one of the most effective ways to prevent abuse or accidental use. Many companies offer lockable medication storage options such as this one.

Disposal of Unused Medications
If you have opioids remaining at the end of your treatment, the best thing is to find a drug take-back option, such as medicine drop-off boxes. You can find medicine drop-off boxes here.  You can also check CDPH’s social media in April and October for local medication take-back events.

If there isn’t a take-back location near you, check the FDA’s Flush List to see if the medication is safe to dispose this way.  PLEASE DO NOT FLUSH YOUR MEDICINCE UNLESS IT IS ON THE FLUSH LIST.

If you have no drop-boxes near you and your medicine is not on the flush list, you can dispose of it in the trash.  FDA recommends using a home disposal products such as DisposeRX or Deterra to do this.  You can buy these at many pharmacies, or you can stop by the CDPH table at certain events (link to events calendar) and get some for free while supplies last.

**Information on Storage and Disposal of Medical Sharps

For more information on safe storage and disposal, visit