Why should I lock up my opioid medication and dispose of unused pills?

Travis M. Hendry, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
It can seem inconvenient to lock up opioid medication (strong medications that affect the way your brain handles pain signals). It can also be tempting to keep unused pain pills for future use. Yet there are important reasons to protect your medication and dispose of it when you're finished:
  • Opioid pain medication can be very dangerous if taken when it was not prescribed. It should not be used for sleep, coughs, or anything that it wasn't prescribed to treat. (NEVER share pain medication with anyone, not even family.)
  • If you store unused pills, they can tempt others. In fact, one in five teens reports misusing someone else's prescription drugs. Many get the pills from friends or relatives by raiding the medicine cabinet. Teen use of pain medication can lead to other drug abuse, including heroin addiction.
  • Unused medication can make you a target for robbery. If thieves find out you have opioid pain medication, they can break into your home looking for pills.

Continue Learning about Opiate Agonists

How can I prevent opioid medication withdrawal symptoms?
Howard J. Shaffer, PhDHoward J. Shaffer, PhD
Medications for opioid addiction help prevent or ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. A...
More Answers
What medication should I avoid if I have a bowel obstruction?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
Do not take the painkiller Avinza (morphine) if you have paralytic ileus, a partial or complete bowe...
More Answers
Can I use tramadol if I have a history of diabetes?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
Tramadol belongs to a class of drugs called opioid analgesics, which doctors prescribe for the treat...
More Answers
What should I tell my doctor before taking an opioid medication?
Dr. Travis M. Hendry, MDDr. Travis M. Hendry, MD
Before you start taking an opioid medication, talk to your doctor and pharmacist. Follow these tips:...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.