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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.

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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.