The Opioid Epidemic, How Parents Can Help: We Keep Our Guns in a Gun Safe and Our Opioids in a Kitchen Drawer

By Jef Mullins 10/05/16

Nobody should ever take prescription medication that was not prescribed to them. Nor should we ever allow anyone to gain access to our old opioids.

Pills in an open drawer.

If you are reading this, then you are a parent who is concerned about the opioid epidemic in this country and the vulnerability of your children. This is commendable and justified.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments every day for misusing prescription opioids. From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million people died from drug overdose and that figure has nearly quadrupled since 1999.

78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin.

In a recent blog, we discussed the importance of sitting with your child and developing a healthy attitude to understanding the medication we take. This mirrors the recent CDC guidelines for physicians prescribing opioids for chronic pain, which state: “Before starting and periodically during opioid therapy, clinicians should discuss with patients known risks and realistic benefits of opioid therapy.”

However, I’d like to make another important suggestion, about the medications we keep around the house, to which our children have access.

For adolescents, a significant point of access to narcotic pain medication is leftover pills from a prior prescription. Our clients at Waters Edge Recovery bring their medication with them when they present for care, and that medication is reviewed and discussed when they meet with our physicians. So many clients bring a whole bag of medications, many of which fall into the category of "My mother gave me these." Quite simply, this is a very dangerous practice. Nobody should ever take prescription medication that was not prescribed to them. Nor should we ever allow anyone to gain access to our old opioids.

Surveys show that many people, including teens, think prescriptions are safer to use than street drugs because they were prescribed by a doctor. However, they were prescribed by a doctor to someone else. Ideally, they would have been prescribed sparingly and as a last resort. The CDC recommendations also state that “nonpharmacologic therapy and nonopioid pharmacologic therapy are preferred for chronic pain. Clinicians should consider opioid therapy only if expected benefits for both pain and function are anticipated to outweigh risks to the patient.” (CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain)

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that nearly half of parents whose child had leftover pain medication from a surgery or illness say they kept the prescription opioids at home. When asked what they did with the leftover medication, 47% said they kept it at home, while 30% disposed of it in the trash or toilet, and 6% used it for other family members. Only 8% returned leftover medication to the doctor or pharmacy, and 9% did not remember what they did. (

Let’s, please, protect our children by safely disposing of old prescription medications, and talking to them about why we do. Pharmacies will take them back and many sheriff’s departments will take them from you if you simply drop them off.  With medication meant for a family member that is being taken exactly as prescribed by that family member only, these should be stored, in original packaging and with original instructions, in a lockable container out of reach of anyone it was not prescribed for. As we would with anything with a serious potential to harm.

If you or a loved one is in need of assistance please contact Waters Edge Recovery for help or more information. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day, 855-522-2064 or visit

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Jef Mulins owns the healthcare treatment management company, Bad Granite Management and is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Choicepoint, New Jersey and Co-founder and Chief Development Officer for Fort Wayne Recovery, Indiana. He was formerly the CEO of Waters Edge Recovery in Stuart Florida. You can find Jef on Linkedin.