Prevent Opioid Abuse and Addiction

Prevention strategies can reduce the occurrence of opioid addiction in the United States. The links below offer information about addiction prevention programs, proper drug disposal, safe prescribing practices and other helpful materials to protect you and your family.

What Are Opioids?

  • Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.

  • When used correctly under a health care provider's direction, prescription pain medicines are helpful. However, misusing prescription opioids risks dependence and addiction.

Understanding Drug Use and Addiction
The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.

Prescription Opioids
In addition to the serious risks of addiction, abuse, and overdose, the use of prescription opioids can have many side effects, even when taken as directed.

Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids
Fentanyl and similar compounds like carfentanil are powerful synthetic opioids -- 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. High doses of opioids, especially potent opioids such as fentanyl, can cause breathing to stop completely, which can lead to death.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug made from morphine, which comes from opium poppy plants. Some prescription opioid pain medicines have effects similar to heroin. Research suggests that misuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin use.

Drugs of Abuse, A DEA Resource Guide: 2017 Edition
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) resource guide is designed to be a reliable resource on the most commonly abused and misused drugs in the United States. This comprehensive guide provides important information about the harms and consequences of drug use.

How to Safely Dispose of Drugs

  • Remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from your home to help reduce the chance that others may accidentally take or intentionally misuse them.

  • You can dispose of unneeded medicines through a drug take back program — or you can do it at home.

Find a Drug Disposal Location
DEA provides a tool for locating drug disposal locations near you.

Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know
Although some medications are safe to throw away at home, learn how to properly dispose of your expired prescriptions.

Pain Management Options

Prescription opioids can be an effective form of pain management, but they are not always the only option. It is important to understand the potential benefits and risks before you begin taking medications.

What to Ask Your Doctor Before Taking Opioids
Before you go to the doctor, review this checklist of questions about opioids and naloxone.

Know Your Options: Nonopioid Treatments for Chronic Pain There are many ways to manage pain safely and effectively. Some of these options may actually work better and have fewer risks and side effects.

Advancing the Practice of Pain Management Under the HHS Opioid Strategy
Rethinking pain treatment is a critical piece of the HHS Five-Point Opioid Strategy unveiled in April 2017.

Key Facts about “Abuse-Deterrent” Opioids
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages the development of opioids with abuse-deterrent properties, which make it harder to abuse these powerful medications.

Complementary and Integrative Approaches for Pain
Consumer information to help patients talk with health care providers about complementary and integrative health approaches for managing pain.

Safe Opioid Prescribing

Medical professionals play a key role in facilitating the proper use of opioids. The following resources promote the safe use of these medications in the treatment of chronic pain.

CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed guidelines to improve prescribing opioids for chronic pain. Recommendations focus on the use of opioids in treating pain lasting longer than 3 months or past the time of normal tissue healing, outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care.

Opioid & Pain Management CMEs
Continuing medical education courses (CMEs) help medical professionals maintain competence and learn about new and developing areas of their practice.

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)
This activity teaches an intervention strategy to identify people who may be at risk of substance misuse or abuse. The early identification process can inform providers and guide them to appropriate referrals for treatment. This free course gives participants the added benefit of receiving CME/CE credit when the course is successfully completed.

Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for Extended-Release and Long-Acting Opioid Analgesics (ER/LA)
Essential safety information for prescribers of these medications, includes basic information that prescribers can use when counseling patients.

CDER Conversation: Pediatric pain management options
Physicians often must rely on their own experience to interpret and translate adult data into dosing information for pediatric patients. However, the manufacturer of the pain management drug OxyContin conducted a study to obtain pediatric-specific information on the safe use of drugs in pediatric patients.

Prevention Programs & Tools

There are many efforts underway across the country to better implement laws, policies, and programs to prevent further escalation of the opioid crisis.

National Prevention Week
National Prevention Week, observed annually in May, is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health.

Opioids Epidemic Practical Toolkit: Helping Faith and Community Leaders Bring Hope and Healing to Our Communities
This toolkit, developed by the HHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, contains practical steps your organization can take to bring hope and healing to the millions suffering the consequences of opioid abuse disorder.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) are state-run electronic databases used to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs to patients. Learn more about PDMPs and find related resources.

It Only Takes A Little to Lose A Lot - Rx Awareness Campaign
The Rx Awareness campaign tells the real stories of people whose lives were torn apart by prescription opioids. The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness that prescription opioids can be addictive and dangerous.

Operation Prevention
The DEA and Discovery Education have joined forces to combat a growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use nationwide. Operation Prevention's mission is to educate students about the true impacts of opioids and kick-start lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom.

Grantee Stories, Tools, and Other Resources
Find grantee stories, tools, videos, and other resources to support your prevention efforts.

Above the Influence Toolkit: Boost Confidence & Reduce Risk-Taking
This prevention toolkit is designed for 12-17 year olds to boost confidence and prevent risk-taking behaviors, including alcohol and drug abuse. The toolkit includes the Not Prescribed (based on four real-life stories) and Pass It activities.

Mind Over Matter Series/Booklet for Middle Schoolers on Opioids
If someone uses opioids again and again, his or her brain is likely to become dependent on them. Misusing opioids can negatively affect your body.

Talking to Your Kids About Prescription Drug Abuse: Not Worth the Risk (for Parents)
Help teenagers learn the facts about prescription drug abuse. This brochure provides practical information parents need to explain the dangers of prescription drug abuse to their teens and describes the risks of nonmedical prescription drug abuse.

Just Think Twice
The Drug Enforcement Administration teen drug prevention site shares true stories about victims and the families of victims of drug overdose, with information and statistics on drug use.

DEA’s 360 Strategy
A three-pronged response from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the heroin and prescription opioid pill crisis to break the cycle of drug trafficking, drug violence, and drug abuse.