Public Awareness

Increasing understanding of opioid risks

Learn the risks

Opioids are a powerful class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain medications available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others.

While important for treating severe pain, these pills can cause problems when used for chronic pain (except cancer and terminal illness). Pain pills can lead to physical dependence, addiction, and death from overdose.

Opioid pain medications are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused.

Overdoses from opioids are on the rise and killing Americans of all races and ages. Families and communities across the country are coping with the health, emotional, and economic effects of this epidemic. 

You can take steps to reduce your risk for prescription opioid misuse and help prevent opioid overdose deaths in your community:


  • Practice responsible use if you are prescribed opioids for pain and work with your doctor to ensure you are getting the safest, most effective pain management possible. Learn more about pain care here.
  • Help those struggling with addiction find the right care and treatment. Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted and help is available if you or someone you know is battling opioid use disorder. Click here for information on treatment options.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose to help prevent opioid overdose death. If you suspect someone is overdosing, it is important that you don’t leave the person alone and that you call 911. Learn more about naloxone and overdose prevention.
  • Research shows that many unwanted or expired prescription medications are improperly disposed of.  Safe disposal helps reduce the risk of prescription medication abuse, helps prevent accidental poisoning, and protects our environment by keeping our waterways clean. 

         Find out how and where to properly dispose of unused prescriptions