Four Steps for Using Prescription Pain Medications Safely

White prescription pills on a table near an open bottle. Other medicine bottles in the background.

©Shutterstock/Kimberly Boyles

Prescription pain medications (opioids) are powerful drugs. They can be effective if they’re used safely, but if they’re misused, a person can become addicted to them. Addiction occurs when a person continues to take drugs or alcohol repeatedly, despite the harm they cause to the person’s life.

Prescription pain medications can also cause nausea (feeling sick to the stomach), slow down a person’s breathing, and even stop the breathing completely, leading to death.

Follow these four important steps to help you and your family stay safe when it comes to prescription opioids:

Learn more: A mother’s story about losing her daughter to opioid use disorder.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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