What Can you Do to Fight the Opioid Epidemic?

A majority of U.S. opioid painkiller users are at risk of addiction, and they don't even know it.

In analyzing the results of a public opinion poll, several conclusions jump off the page:

  • Americans don't know their painkillers contain opioids, or that it is a felony to share them
  • Opioid users are unconcerned about addiction, but most have reason to worry
  • Opioid users overestimate the benefits of opioids and underestimate the risks of addiction or death

A Life Cut Short

A suburban Chicago mother who lost her son to an overdose is doing everything she can to increase public awareness of the risks associated with using opioids like codeine, Vicodin, Demerol, methadone, morphine and oxycodone.

Felicia Miceli's 24-year-old son, Louie, died in August 2012. The problem started when he was injured playing high school football and was prescribed opioids.

Today, Felicia speaks on the dangers of prescription drug abuse at events like International Overdose Awareness Day.

Learn more about Louis Miceli and his mother's efforts to stop this epidemic.

Never Mix Your Medications

Mixing alcohol and other drugs with opioid painkillers can intensify the effects:

  • Never mix opioid medications with alcohol, sleep aids, anti-anxiety drugs or other pain relievers
  • Do not take extended-release opioids "as needed" for pain or more frequently than prescribed by your doctor
  • Talk to your prescriber and pharmacist to ensure you won't have drug interactions from other medications

Expired and Unwanted Prescriptions

More than half of people who misuse opioid pain relievers get them from a friend or family member. Instead of letting your leftover medication fall into the wrong hands:

Request an Opioid Warn-Me Label

To keep fewer pills out of circulation to begin with, you can request an Opioid Warn-Me label from NSC. A Warn-Me Label on an insurance card or prescription card is a sign to doctors and pharmacists that you want answers to the following questions:

  • Am I being prescribed an opioid?
  • If so, is there a non-addictive alternative?
  • If not, is a short-term prescription possible?
  • Do I have any medical conditions, mental health issues or a family history that could increase my risk?

Talk to Your Kids about the Risks of Opioid Painkillers

teen counting pills.jpg Warn children that taking a drug that wasn't prescribed to them is just as dangerous as illegal drugs:

  • Discuss the dangers of mixing prescription drugs with alcohol
  • Explain how painkillers are made from opioids, which are similar to heroin
  • Talk to grandparents and caregivers about how to safely store their medications
  • Secure any opioid painkillers, sedatives, sleep medications or stimulants in a locked drawer or container
  • Warn children prescription opioid painkiller abuse is prevalent among teens

Is There a Way to Use Opioid Painkillers Safely?

In select, individual cases, opioids may be one part of an effective pain management plan. Even then, patients should be monitored closely and opioids should be used at the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time.

Treat over-the-counter and prescription drugs with caution:

  • Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you have questions about medicine
  • Know the dose that is right for you
  • Read and follow instructions every time
  • Never take multiple medicines with the same active ingredient unless directed by a doctor
  • Put over-the-counter and prescription medicines up and away and out of sight

Can you Recognize the Signs of an Overdose?

  • Slow and loud breathing
  • Sleepiness, progressing to stupor or coma
  • Weak, floppy muscles
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slow heart rate
  • Dangerously low blood pressure
  • Ultimately, death

If you suspect someone may have overdosed, call 911 and be prepared to start CPR. If you have naloxone (the opiate antidote) administer it immediately.

Facing an Everyday Killer

Opioid users come face to face with those who have lost loved ones to overdose in this powerful short film.

Stop Everyday Killers

Free Opioid Warn-me Labels

Warn-me labels for insurance cards let medical professionals know you want to talk about opioids, their risks and alternatives.

Order Today

Community Action Kit

Meet survivors and find resources to mobilize your community in this free NSC Prescription Drug Community Action Kit.

Get the Kit

Talk to Your Doctor

Before taking opioid painkillers, ask your doctor if another option is better for you.

Learn More