If you think someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately. Learn more about the signs of overdose.


Prescription opioids carry serious risks if used improperly. There are many ways to help reduce the risk for opioid misuse and prevent an opioid-related overdose.

Awareness and education about the dangers of opioids are two of the best defenses against opioid misuse and overdose. No matter who you are — a loved one of someone who’s misusing opioids, a policymaker, a member of law enforcement, a healthcare provider, or a concerned citizen — we all have a role to play in the fight against the Virginia opioid crisis.

If you are prescribed opioids for pain, you can take action to make sure you are receiving the most effective pain treatment plan possible. Most important, do not share your prescription opioids with others, as they can have dangerous or even life-threatening effects on someone else.

Smart Practices

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following tips to help individuals manage and safely use their prescribed pain medications to avoid forming a dependency.

  • Never take your medications in greater amounts or more often than prescribed.
  • Don’t take opioids with alcohol and other medications, including:
    • Benzodiazepines
    • Muscle relaxants
    • Hypnotics
    • Other prescription opioids
  • Know the names of your medications and let your healthcare provider know what you are taking and how often.
  • Work with your doctor, prescriber, or pharmacist to create a plan for how to manage your pain. Talk to your doctor about any and all side effects and concerns.
  • Follow up regularly with your doctor.
  • Know your options for alternative pain treatment.


Storage and Disposal

People who are prescribed opioids for pain might not need to take their entire prescription. Some people find that after surgery they don’t need even a single pill. Safely disposing of opioids and reducing access to them at all times are two of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent substance misuse. For parents and other role models especially, it is important to demonstrate safe medication practices.

  • Proper Storage: Lock your medications in a cabinet, drawer, or medicine safe, out of the reach of children and pets, as well as adults who may be at risk of drug misuse. Count your prescription pills regularly to ensure that you have been taking them as prescribed — and that none has been removed by someone else.
  • Proper Disposal: There are several ways to safely dispose of unused medications. Check online for local proper disposal sites or ask your local drug prevention coalition or police department for information. You can also request a drug disposal bag from your health department or pharmacy. These bags contain powder to dissolve your unused medication. You can also safely dispose of medication in your household trash by following these steps: Remove the medication from its container and mix it with a substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds. Put the mixture in a sealed plastic bag and place it in your trash. Keep others from trying to order refills: Scratch out personal information on the bottle and dispose of it in your trash or recycling. Unless you are specifically instructed to do so, do not dispose of prescription medications in the toilet or sink, which will contaminate waterways and can harm fish and other wildlife.

Want To Help? Volunteer With a Community Coalition

Virginia is fortunate to have a strong network of community coalitions working to prevent substance misuse. The coalitions bring together a diversity of partners, including parents, educators, youths, healthcare providers, members of faith communities, first responders, business leaders, elected officials, and many others.

Together, coalition members bring about positive change by assessing the community’s needs; putting into place various ideas and ways to help people and the local environment; and evaluating the results of their activities.

Prevention efforts include coordinating education campaigns, hosting events including drug take-back days, establishing permanent prescription drug drop boxes, distributing lockboxes and deactivation kits, providing training on how and when to administer naloxone, and organizing community conversations.

Volunteering with a community coalition is a great way to join with others to make an impact. Check out the Community Coalitions of Virginia to connect with a coalition in your area.

Virginia Community Services Boards

Virginia's Community Services Boards offer programs throughout the state to people with or without insurance. Resources address behavioral health needs, including substance use treatment and recovery.

Get Help