What Can You Do About the Opioid Epidemic in Your Community?

In 2016, the opioid epidemic (including prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl) killed more than 42,000 people. This is the highest number of deaths on record.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 40% of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid rather than illegal drugs.


What Is an Opioid?

Opioids are substances that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. There are three main types:

  1. Prescription Opioids are prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain. Common types are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone. These drugs can have serious risks and side effects.
  2. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is many times more powerful than prescription opioids and is only approved for treating severe pain, like the pain that comes with advanced cancer. Because it is so powerful, there has been an increase in fentanyl being manufactured and distributed illegally.
  3. Heroin is an illegal opioid. Heroin use is on the rise in the U.S., among both men and women, in most age groups, and in all income levels.


Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the CDC, says that “Overdoses involving prescription painkillers are at epidemic levels and now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined.”

70% of the people who abuse opioids got the drugs from a friend or family member, often right out of the home medicine cabinet.


What Can I Do To End The Opioid Epidemic?

Don’t leave prescription pain medications where someone else can get them!

If you have leftover pills, you can safely dispose of them during Take Back Day, a twice-yearly initiative of the Drug Enforcement Agency.

According to DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson, “Take Back Day helps to keep drugs out of the hands of abusers and potentially save lives by removing unused painkillers and controlled drugs from homes. The more unused painkillers or controlled drugs we can help to remove from homes, the more potential lives will be saved.”


Here are some results of National Take Back Day in October 2017:

  • Total Law Enforcement Participation: 4,274
  • Total Collection Sites: 5,321
  • Total Weight Collected: 912,305 lbs. (456 tons)


A Take Back Day collection took place April 28, 2018, and another one is planned for October 2018. To find a year-round drug disposal site, click here.

Together, we can work to end the Opioid epidemic.