Practicing Safe Storage and Disposal Can Help Prevent Prescription Opioid Misuse and Abuse

Did you know that more than half of those who misused prescription opioids in the past year obtained them from a friend or relative? Prescription opioid misuse and abuse can start in the home, so practicing safe storage and disposal is key to ensuring that these medicines do not end up in the wrong hands.

Allied Against Opioid Abuse (AAOA) is a national education and awareness initiative helping to prevent the abuse and misuse of prescription opioids. Founded by stakeholders across the healthcare and public health communities, AAOA aims to fill in the education gap and raise awareness of the rights, risks and responsibilities associated with prescription opioids, including ways to safely store and dispose of these medicines.

Safe Storage

Pain is a common medical issue. If you and your healthcare provider agree on a treatment plan that includes prescription opioids, take the following steps to safely store these medications:

  • Store opioid prescriptions to the original packaging.
  • Secure opioids in a locked cabinet or lockbox (do not store in an unlocked medicine cabinet or on the kitchen counter).
  • Monitor your medicine and know how many pills you have left.
  • Keep medicines out of reach of young children.
  • Safe Disposal

Unused medicines are a main source for misuse and abuse, so it is critical to safely dispose of any leftover pills when there is no longer a medical need for them. Here are five things you need to know about safe disposal:

  • Dispose of unused medications as soon as possible (find a drug disposal location near you).
  • Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for information about mail-back programs and disposal kiosks for unused medicines.
  • Take advantage of law enforcement programs that accept unused medications (the next DEA Take Back Day is April 25).
  • Use medication disposal bags to neutralize medicines and avoid damage to the environment.
  • Alternatively, combine your medication with dirt, kitty litter or used coffee grounds and discard in the trash.

AAOA and its partners have created a full suite of resources with reminders and tips to help underscore the importance of prescription opioid safety among patients, caregivers and the medical community.

To learn more and access AAOA’s growing library of fact sheets, videos and toolkits, visit


This article originally appeared in a special pain management supplement for the March 17 edition of USA Today. The supplement, developed by Mediaplant, was also published online.