Raising Awareness to Prevent Prescription Opioid Overdoses

A jumble of orange prescription pill bottles with white labels and lids.

In 2016, 115 Americans died every day from an opioid overdose – that is more than 42,000 drug overdose deaths that involved an opioid including prescription opioids, heroin, and/or illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Prescription opioids (like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) are prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but have serious risks and side effects.Using prescription opioids can have a number of side effects, even when taken as directed: • Tolerance—meaning you might need to take more of the medication for the same pain relief • Physical dependence—meaning you have symptoms of withdrawal when the medication is stopped • Increased sensitivity to pain • Constipation • Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth • Sleepiness and dizziness • Confusion • Depression • Low levels of testosterone that can result in lower sex drive, energy, and strength • Itching and sweating

Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. Families across the county are dealing with the health, emotional, and economic effects of the opioid epidemic. The opioid overdose epidemic is a public health emergency and Americans of all races and ages are being killed by opioid overdoses.

Rx Awareness campaign tackles prescription opioids

Rx Awareness is CDC’s latest effort in the fight against the opioid overdose epidemic. Rx Awareness aims to:

  1. Increase Americans’ awareness and knowledge about the risks of prescription opioids, and
  2. Prevent inappropriate use of prescription opioids.

Rx Awareness uses the tagline, “It only takes a little to lose a lot” to educate the public about dangers of prescription opioids, including misuse, abuse, and overdose. The campaign features real-life accounts from people recovering from opioid use disorder and from people who have lost loved ones to prescription opioid overdose.

Public awareness campaigns, like Rx Awareness, are important in the fight against opioids. The more equipped people are with information and resources about the risks of opioids, the more we can support those affected by this epidemic. The cornerstone of Rx Awareness is a series of testimonial videos, and the campaign also includes radio advertisements, digital advertisements, billboards, posters, newspaper advertisements, and a website.

States are on the frontlines of the opioid overdose epidemic

CDC created the Rx Awareness campaign for states, coalitions, and communities to implement across the country. When the campaign was launched in 2017 it included an implementation guide to support CDC-funded states to use the campaign materials. State and local health departments and community organizations can take part in the Rx Awareness campaign and use the tested campaign materials and resources to launch local campaigns, support local prevention activities, and raise awareness about the risks of prescription opioids.

States are critical in preventing opioid overdoses. Through the Overdose Prevention in States (OPIS) effort, CDC is working with 45 states and Washington D.C. to provide scientific expertise, enhanced surveillance activities, and support resources to prevent risks of opioid use disorder, overdose, and death. The resources and information from this effort help combat prescription and illicit opioid abuse and overdose and is the heart of the CDC’s work on this epidemic.

Everyone can help stop opioid overdoses

The best ways to prevent opioid overdose are to: (1) improve opioid prescribing practices, (2) reduce exposure to opioids, (3) prevent misuse, and (4) treat opioid use disorder. Anyone can take action to help end the opioid overdose epidemic. You have a role in preventing opioid-related overdoses.

You can take steps to reduce your risk for prescription opioid misuse and help prevent opioid overdose deaths in your community:

  • Learn more about prescription opioids so you can help those at risk for opioid use disorder and overdose in your community.
  • Practice responsible use if you are prescribed opioids for pain and work with your doctor to ensure you are getting the safest, most effective pain management possible.
  • Help those struggling with addiction find the right care and treatment. Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted and help is available if you or someone you know is battling opioid use disorder.
  • Spread the word and increase awareness in your community about the risk and dangers of prescription opioids. By sharing campaign materials you can broaden the reach of the message that, “It only takes a little to lose a lot.”
  • Know the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose to help prevent opioid overdose death. If you suspect someone is overdosing, it is important that you don’t leave the person alone and that you call 911.

Learn more

We want to hear from you!

Comment below if you have you noticed the Rx Awareness campaign in your community.

Source: CDC