Opioid Addiction Prevention

Learn what you can do to prevent opioid addiction.

Page updated on Jul 8, 2021 at 11:01 AM

My doctor prescribed an opioid for me. Can I take it?

Rx formIf you are prescribed opioids, the CDC recommends that you:

  • 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.

How do I use opioids safely?

The CDC recommends:

  • 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, including over-the-counter medications, without your doctor's approval. It is very dangerous to combine opioids with other drugs, especially those that cause drowsiness.
  • Do not share or sell your prescription opioids.

How do I store opioids safely?

Store medications out of reach of children in a safe place—preferably locked—to prevent other family members or visitors from taking them. 

How do I dispose of expired or unwanted medications safely?

In Alexandria, you can dispose of unwanted or unused pills, liquids or other medication at one of three permanent medication drop boxes that provide year-round access to safe drug disposal for all Alexandria residents:

  • Neighborhood Pharmacy2204 Mt Vernon Ave.; open Mon - Fri: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Sat: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. and Sun: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
  • Inova Alexandria Hospital: Visitor's Center Lobby (near cashier's window), 4320 Seminary Road; open daily from 1 - 5 p.m. (for updated hours, visit inova.org/visit)
  • Alexandria Police Department Headquarters (just inside front entrance, ring bell for access): 3600 Wheeler Ave.; available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day 

Dispose of needles and syringes at a separate permanent drop box specifically for these items located inside the visitor's entrance at Inova Alexandria Hospital (4320 Seminary Road). The box is located near the permanent medication drop box next to the cahier's window; both drop boxes are available daily from 1-5 p.m. Please note that no needles are accepted in the permanent medication drop boxes.

An additional three to four designated drop-off sites are made available during Prescription Drug Take Back Days, which are held three to four times a year.

Outside of Alexandria, take advantage of your community’s local “take back” or mail back program or medication drop box at a police station, DEA-authorized collection site or pharmacy. Find a CVS Pharmacy Drop Box location near you.  Find local pharmacies participating as drop-off points by zip code and locations to pick up free drug disposal kits. Learn additional ways to dispose of medications safely at home.      

Narcan/NaloxoneWhat is Nalaxone/Narcan® and why should I have it on hand if I or someone I know is prescribed opioids?

Naloxone, a short-acting opioid overdose antidote, can save the life of someone who is overdosing, if given in time.  Its only effect is to displace opioids from the opioid receptor in the setting of opioid overdose. (Source: www.hhs.gov

It is available without a prescription at Virginia pharmacies to residents who want to be prepared to act should they personally encounter someone overdosing from opioids.

Narcan is available for free from the Alexandria Health Department by calling 703.746.4888 or by emailing opioids@alexandriava.gov.

You can also request Narcan to be mailed to you by emailing your name and mailing address to opioids@alexandriava.gov. There is no cost for the Narcan or mailing.

Anyone who assists a person in need is protected from liability by the Good Samaritan Law. 

If you’re giving out Narcan®, aren’t you just promoting the idea that people should keep using drugs?

Most people who overdose on opioids are not trying to kill themselves. Tolerance and compulsive use place the person using opioids at the risk of an overdose. In addition, opioids can be mixed with other drugs and sold as a combination product—sometimes without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects, thus leading to risk of overdose. Naloxone is safe, effective and is designated for the singular purpose of reviving those in the midst of opioid overdose. Those who revive from an opioid overdose can benefit from effective rehab/recovery. Furthermore, studies specifically looking for risk compensation associated with increased Naloxone access found none ( read more at BMC Public Health). 

Why don’t the police just arrest people who use drugs and put them in jail?

Addiction is a brain disorder best treated with multi-disciplinary medical care. By definition, people dealing with addiction feel physically and psychologically driven to obtain and use drugs despite the negative impact these drugs have on their life. Historically, incarceration has been an unsuccessful way to deal with people who have substance use disorders. Jail does not prevent addiction and jail does not treat addiction.  

If I know someone who is dealing drugs or selling prescription opioids illegally who should I contact?

Contact the Alexandria Police Department at 703.746.6277.

What else can I do to prevent opioid addiction?

You can prevent opioid misuse and addiction by helping to spread the word. Watch and share the videos below  from the Addiction Policy Forum that feature key information about opioids and guidance for parents and teachers on how to prevent opioid misuse.

 Seven Things Teachers Can Do Prevent Addiction

12 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Addiction

Teens and Opioids

Also, view or download these helpful workbooks, handouts and toolkit from the Addiction Policy Forum Opioid Prevention Campaign Toolkit, a public health media campaign to help prevent adolescent substance use.

Additional Resources

Explore these resources available to help with overdose prevention