Opioid misuse is a big problem, but there’s a lot you can do to help your family and friends stay addiction free. Together, we can start to heal our community — and we’re so glad you want to help.

Keep track of your medications

If you have a prescription for opioids or other drugs, make sure that you’re the only person who’s using them. You can:

  • Lock up all prescription drugs. Use a safe or a lockbox that’s bolted to something that cannot be moved. You need to be the only person who can get into it.
  • Keep an eye on how many pills you have. Use a log or a calendar to track the number of pills you should have left.
  • Never share a prescription medication. Sharing medication isn’t safe, even if you’re just trying to help a loved one feel better. Want to know how most people start using opioids? 70% of the time, it’s because a friend or family member gave them a pill. If your loved one is in pain, send them to the doctor instead.

Before you get a prescription for powerful painkillers from your doctor, remember that you have other options. Talk to your doctor about non-medication treatments that might help with pain.

Get rid of leftover medications safely

If you’re done with a prescription and still have some pills left, don’t keep them around the house.

One easy way to get rid of them is to bring them to a MedReturn Drug Collection Box. They’re at police stations in:

If you can’t get to a drug collection box, you can still throw out old medications safely. Here’s how to do it:

  • Use a permanent marker to black out any personal information on the bottle.
  • Take out the pills and mix them with something you can’t eat — like cat litter or coffee — so pets and kids won’t accidentally get them.
  • Put the mix in a sealable bag or empty container. That way the mixture won’t leak out — and anyone who looks through your trash probably won’t notice them.
  • Throw the pill mix and empty bottle in the trash. Don’t flush pills — they’re not good for our water supply.

Learn more about safeguarding the medicine in your home from the Medicine Abuse Project.

Protect your children

Make sure your kids know about risks of using substances like alcohol, illegal drugs, and medicine that is not prescribed to them.

Abusing substances is especially harmful to children and teens, since their brains are still developing (and will keep developing until age 25). The earlier a young person starts using drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to develop addiction as they get older.

However, you can make a difference. Kids who learn about the risks of substance use from their parents are less likely to use. Start talking and keep talking. You can also:

  • Set clear rules about substance use in your home. Work together to come up with fair consequences for breaking the rules — and stick to them.
  • Stay involved in your children’s lives. Go to their after-school activities. Eat dinner together. Meet their teachers at school. When your kids aren’t home, make sure you always know where they are and who they’re with.
  • Know the signs of substance use and mental health issues. If you suspect your child is struggling with substance use, anxiety, or depression, get help.

Be a good role model.

Young people who see their parents drunk, using drugs, or misusing medicine are at an increased risk for developing substance abuse problems themselves.

So don’t use substances to manage your own stress. Show your kids healthier ways to cope. Try exercising, doing yoga or meditating, talking to a friend or therapist, or just doing something fun — like playing a game or watching a funny movie.

Get more tips and information from the Parent Toolkit at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.