Prevent Prescription Opioid Overdose

Saving lives from opioid overdose through the Rx Awareness campaign relies on the efforts of state and local agencies and organizations across the country. By sharing the campaign materials in your communities, you can broaden the reach of the message that, “It only takes a little to lose a lot.”

%22I was given a prescription opioid pain medication that lasted a lot longer than the pain itself.

Get the Facts

Prescription opioids (like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but have serious risks and side effects.

From 1999 to 2017, more than 200,000 people died from overdoses related to prescription opioids, with more than 17,000 prescription opioid overdose deaths occurring in 2017.

The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include:

  • Oxycodone (such as OxyContin®)
  • Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®)
  • Methadone

Overdose is not the only risk related to prescription opioids. Misuse, abuse, and opioid use disorder (addiction) are also potential dangers.

Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them.

Signs of an Opioid Overdose

You may have seen someone who looks like they may be under the influence of prescription opioids. Recognizing an opioid overdose can be difficult.  Here are a few signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Unconsciousness or unresponsiveness
  • Shallow breathing or no breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils

If you suspect someone is overdosing or in distress, it is important that you don’t leave the person alone and that you call 911 and seek immediate medical care for the individual.

What You Can Do to Prevent Opioid Overdose

You have a role in preventing opioid-related overdoses. It starts with learning more about prescription opioids and reducing risk in your home and in your community. Here are a few steps you can take to help:

If You Are Prescribed Opioids

  • Talk with your doctor to fully understand benefits and risks of prescription opioids before taking them.
  • Make sure you’re getting care that is safe, effective, and right for you. Talk with your doctor about setting goals for management of your pain.
  • Ask your doctor about non-opioid options for treating pain, including medications other than opioids as well as nonpharmacologic options, like exercise.
  • Always let your doctor know about any side effects or concerns you may have.

Practice Responsible Use

  • Never take opioids in greater amounts or more often than prescribed.
  • Always let your doctor know about any side effects or concerns you may have about using opioids.
  • Avoid taking opioids with alcohol and other substances or medications. It is very dangerous to combine opioids with other drugs, especially those that cause drowsiness.
  • Do not share or sell your prescription opioids.
  • Safely store your medications.

Learn More

  • Learn about Good Samaritan LawsExternal in your state which protect overdose victims and people seeking medical help for an overdose victim from drug possession charges.
  • Learn about naloxoneExternal, a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when administered in time. Find out more about naloxone laws and naloxone access in your stateExternal.
  • Explore resources available to help with overdose prevention.

Learn more about opioid misuse and overdose, data, and prevention resources at CDC’s Opioid Overdose website.