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Opioid abuse is hurting communities all across Washington State. The crisis affects Washingtonians of all ages, but it is taking a particularly heavy toll on our youth.

According to the Healthy Youth Survey, an alarming number of Washington teens abuse medicines — almost 11 percent of those surveyed reported using a painkiller to get high in the past 30 days1. This is one of the highest rates in the country.

The reality is many young people who are misusing or abusing opioids are likely getting the dangerous drugs from someone they know. Seventy-five percent of opioid misuse starts with people using medication that wasn’t prescribed for them, usually taken from a friend or family member.2With about one-third of medicines in Washington households going unused every year — or 33 million containers per year3— it is easier than ever for teens to get their hands on the highly addictive painkillers.

We all play a role in preventing opioid abuse and deadly overdose among Washington’s young people. Simple steps like promptly removing opioid prescription medications from your home and safely disposing of unwanted, unused or expired pills at a permanent take back location can help protect teens and other loved ones.

Follow these steps to safely dispose of opioid medications:

Safe disposal of opioid medications at a permanent take back location not only prevents opioid abuse and overdose deaths, it’s also best for the environment. Opioids thrown out in the trash or toilet can threaten wildlife and the drinking water. In fact, scientists have found medicines in Pacific Northwest water and soils. Even at low levels, these medicines can harm the health of our environment.5

When it comes to protecting loved ones and the environment from the risks of opioids, you can make a difference. Visit for more information on opioid abuse or visit to find an authorized take back site near you.

Sources: 1 Healthy Youth Survey (2016),2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 3 Kaiser Family Foundation,4 National Institute on Drug Abuse,5 Washington State Department of Ecology)