Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions in the United States.  President Trump recently declared a Nationwide Public Health Emergency to address the opioid crisis:

  • The action allows for expanded access to telemedicine services, including services involving remote prescribing of medicine commonly used for substance abuse or mental health treatment.
  • The action helps overcome bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies in the hiring process, by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to more quickly make temporary appointments of specialists with the tools and talent needed to respond effectively to our Nation’s ongoing public health emergency.
  • The actions allows the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants to help workers who have been displaced from the workforce because of the opioid crisis, subject to available funding.
  • The action allows for shifting of resources within HIV/AIDS programs to help people eligible for those programs receive substance abuse treatment, which is important given the connection between HIV transmission and substance abuse.

District Health Department #10 provides the following information to help educate the public on this growing crisis:

Understanding the Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic
About Prescription Opioids
What Are Opioids – Guideline Information for Patients – Safer, More Effective Pain Management
About Fentanyl  Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. It is prescribed in patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse.
Today’s Heroin Epidemic  People who are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin.

CDC information, Heroin use is part of a larger substance abuse problem

What Can You Do?

Monitor, Educate, Dispose, and Secure
Prescription drug abuse is at epidemic levels in the United States.  We can all be part of the solution by safeguarding our medications and our homes, as well as educating ourselves and others.


  • Keep track of how many pills are in your prescription packs and bottles
  • Keep track of refills on prescriptions (includes all prescriptions in the house). If you need refills sooner than usual, this could indicate a problem
  • Monitor children and teen’s medications (includes dosages and refills)
  • Encourage grandparents, family, and friends to monitor their medications on a regular basis


  • Saving unused or expired medications to use again in the future could be dangerous. Dosage needs change, interactions with current medications may take place, and medications are expired.
  • Abusing prescription drugs is illegal, including sharing
  • Educate yourself and those around you about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and the important role proper disposal can play in preventing access to medications.
  • Ask questions, such as, “Is medication necessary to treat my condition or are there other alternatives?” Other alternatives may include: exercise, massage, dietary approaches,    chiropractic care, stress reduction techniques, etc.


Do not dispose of prescription drugs by flushing down the toilet, dumping down the drain, or throwing in the garbage. Instead, take advantage of ongoing community disposal programs or take-back programs.

Click here to locate a disposal site near you.

Dispose of medications properly and safely to prevent:

  • Medication abuse
  • Medications being used again in the future (by yourself or others)
  • Accidental poisonings
  • Environmental pollution

Proper disposal of medications has many benefits: 

  • Keeping people and animals safe
  • Protecting young adults from medicine abuse
  • Provides a safe, convenient way to safely and properly dispose of medications
  • Prevents environmental pollution by preventing improper disposal


  • Keep medications in a safe and secure location, such as a private bathroom or locked cabinet or safe. Bathroom medicine cabinet is not recommended due to medication abuse and small    children can have access to medications.
  • Do not leave medications out on kitchen table, counter, or sink
  • Keep purses, coats, and bags that contain medications in a secure location
  • Keep caps tightly on all prescription bottles and put in a secure location
  • Keep in mind that most pill organizers are not “child-proof” or “theft-proof”
  • Encourage grandparents, family, friends, and parents of your teen’s friends to secure medications in their homes


Fact Sheets

Prescription Opioids: What You Need to Know
Promoting Safer and More Effective Pain Management – Understanding Prescription Opioids
Pregnancy and Opioid Pain Medications
Pregnancy and Opioid Pain Medication (Spanish version)


Video:  Prescription Opioids: Even When Prescribed by a Doctor (CDC)
Video:  What Parents Need to Know: A Prescription Drug Abuse Documentary
Common Places Your Teen Could be Hiding Drugs
Identifying Drug
How to Identify Drug Paraphernalia
Talking to Your Child When You Suspect Drug Use
Parent Talk Kit
Preventing Teen Prescription Medicine Abuse
Non-Medical use of Prescription Stimulants
Getting High on Prescription Drugs and Over-the-Counter Cough Medicine is Dangerous
Secure and Dispose of Medicine Properly


From Home to Homeroom Toolkit for School Nurses
Smart Moves Smart Choices
Rx Stimulants Do Not Improve Grades
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.

Medical Professionals/Healthcare Providers/Dentists

Safe and proper prescribing of opioids can help patients safely manage chronic pain, as well as reduce the number of individuals who abuse and overdose on these drugs. Below are tools for medical professionals and healthcare providers to assist in the prevention of prescription drug abuse.

Video:  Prescription Opioids: Back on Track (CDC)
CDC Opioid Guideline Mobile App
Guideline Resources – Clinical Tools
CDC Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids
CDC Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain
Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS)
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)
What Health Care Providers Need to Know About PDMP’s
What States Need to Know About PDMP’s
Tools for Reducing Opioid Addiction
Opioid Risk Tool
Effective Alternatives to Opioid Therapy
Screening for Drug Use in General Medical Setting
Help Prevent Adolescent Medicine Abuse – A Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers

Continuing Medical Education (CME)

Opioid Prescribing: Safe Practice, Changing Lives
Safe and Effective Opioid Prescribing for Chronic Pain – Boston University (SCOPE of Pain)
Safely & Effectively Help Your Patients Manage Pain – These CME activities are designed to help you safely manage patients with chronic pain who have been prescribed opioid analgesicsSCOPE learning modules from Boston University
REMS-Compliant Continuing Medical Education (CME) – Access Continuing Medication Education REMS courses specific to prescribing ER/LA Opioid Analgesics Accredited CME/CE REMS-Compliant Activities Database
Continuing Medical Education (CME) for Prescribers
Safe Opioid Prescribing for Acute Dental Pain

Videos (Medical Providers)

Prescription Opioids: Back on Track (CDC)
When Benefits Outweigh Risks (CDC)
Case Study: Questionable activity in an established patient – Watch a quick video showing how to speak with an established patient whom you suspect may be misusing opioid prescriptions
Using Your State’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP)
Identifying Prescription Drug Abuse and Improving Patient Care
Case Study: Questionable Activity in a New Patient – Watch a quick video that shows how to speak with a new patient whom you suspect may be misusing opioid prescriptions

Infographics (Medical Providers)

CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain – Effective and Responsible Chronic Pain Management
CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain – Promoting Patient Care and Safety
Why Guidelines for Primary Care Providers?


SAMHSA’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit – This toolkit equips health care providers, communities, and local government with material to develop practices and policies to help prevent opioid-related overdoses and deaths. It addresses issues for health care providers, first responders, treatment providers, and those recovering from opioid overdose.


Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict (FBI)
Taking Prescription Drugs to Get High – A Bad Idea (Just Think Twice)
Prescription Drug Abuse: Keeping Your Family Safe
Out of Reach – A documentary film by a teen about prescription abuse


Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Infographic
Heroin Use is Part of a Larger Substance Abuse Problem


Michigan Launches New Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to Help Prevent Opioid Abuse – April 11, 2017
Next Steps Have Been Unveiled to Address Opioid Epidemic, Help Prevent Addiction From Occurring – March 23, 2017

General Publications

Facing Addiction in America – The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health

CDC Vital Signs
Today’s Heroin Epidemic – More People At-Risk, Multiple Drugs Abused
Opioid Painkiller Prescribing – Where You Live Makes a Difference
Prescription Painkiller Overdoses – A Growing Epidemic, Especially Among Women