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Whether you realize it or not, the pain reliever medications sitting on your shelf or countertop could be putting your family and friends at risk of opioid misuse.

Many of today’s household medicine cabinets contain prescription opioid medications. Legal prescription opioids commonly prescribed by doctors to reduce pain after surgery or injury include oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine and morphine.1

While opioid pain medications are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor1, the highly addictive drugs are being misused at a shocking rate. In fact, opioids are now one of the leading causes of injury-related deaths in Washington state. More people die from overdose than from car crashes.2

Opioid misuse affects people of all ages, but it is an increasingly concerning problem among Washington’s young people. According to the Healthy Youth Survey, almost 11 percent of teens surveyed reported using a painkiller to get high in the past 30 days.3 This is one of the highest rates in the country.

These teens are likely getting the drugs from someone they know — 75 percent of opioid misuse starts with people using medication that wasn’t prescribed for them, usually taken from a friend or family member.4

It’s an alarming fact. But one simple step — such as locking up medications — could help stop your prescription opioid pills from being misused by a family member or home visitor.

Protect your loved ones and lock up the opioids in a safe, locked cabinet, medicine lockbox or other secure container. Be sure to keep pills in the original packaging to prevent confusion with other medications. And, finally, never share your prescription medication with others.

When you’re no longer taking the medication, promptly remove unused opioid prescriptions from your home and safely dispose of the leftover pills at a permanent take back location. Find one near you at

Opioid misuse is a statewide problem, but we can all play a role in the solution. Lock up your medications to help protect your teens and other loved ones from opioid misuse. Visit for more information.

Sources: 1 National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2 Washington State Department of Health, 3 Healthy Youth Survey (2016), 4 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration