Sometimes it’s frustrating to hear repeatedly on the news that opioid addiction is such a problem. It’s easy to feel helpless about the situation, and doubtful about how you can help. In this blog entry, I’m going to describe some very specific things you can do to reduce the impact of addiction on our society.

 If you are an addict, get help immediately. Many people have so much shame about becoming addicted that they’re mortified to seek help, fearing the stigma attached to addiction and to an admitted addict, so it takes tremendous courage to admit you have this problem. If you are getting medications from your doctor, tell her the truth. Tell her you are misusing the medicine and need help. She should be able to guide you to an appropriate addiction treatment center, to get an evaluation. At a good treatment center, you should be informed of all of your treatment options. This should include information on both medication-free treatment and medication-assisted treatment.

 If you are doctor shopping for prescriptions, stop it now. As more and more doctors use their states’ prescription monitoring database, sooner or later you will be discovered by one of your doctors. In my state of North Carolina, doctor shopping is a felony, because it’s considered using false pretenses to get a controlled substance. Instead, get treatment. If you’re selling these medications, stop it before you go to jail or kill someone.

 Get rid of all old medication in your cabinets, especially if they are controlled substances like opioid pain pills, sedatives, sleeping pills, or stimulants. According to a recent survey, most young people got their first opioid drug from friends or family. Many times, they took what they found in their parents’ medicine cabinets, or in their friends’ parents’ medicine cabinets. Some communities have regular “drug take back” days, where people bring unused medication for disposal. If you don’t have these in your community, you can wet the pills and mix them with coffee grounds or cat litter, and then throw them in the garbage. The coffee grounds and cat litter will deter addicts looking for medication. Don’t flush pills in the toilet, because there are fears the medication can enter our water supply. (Though I’ve always wondered about drug metabolites that are excreted in urine and feces…don’t they get into the water supply too?)

 Don’t share your medication, with anyone, even family. In this country, sharing medication is so common people don’t realize it’s a crime. Some people feel that if it’s their medicine, and they bought it, they have the right to do with it what they want. This isn’t true. Giving controlled substances to another person is a crime, and dangerous as well. Selling a controlled substance is even worse. Speak up to friends and family, letting them know you don’t think it’s OK for Aunt Bea to give Jimmy one of her Xanax pill because his nerves are bad today. Jimmy needs to see his own doctor.

 Give your children clear and consistent anti-drug messages. Don’t glamorize your own past drug use, including alcohol, by telling war stories. It should go without saying, though I’m going to say it: don’t use drugs with your kids, including alcohol and marijuana. Also, don’t err in the opposite direction, and exaggerate the harms of drug use, because you’ll lose credibility with your kids. Some may remember how the film “Reefer Madness” was mocked. Talk to your kids in an age-appropriate way about drugs and alcohol, even if they don’t appear to be listening.

 If you have a family member addicted to prescription medication, call their doctor to describe what you see. The doctor probably can’t discuss your relative’s treatment, unless given permission, but your doctor can accept information. Write a letter, and be specific with what you’ve witnessed. If your loved one runs out of medication early and then buys off the street, let the doctor know.

 If you feel your addicted loved one is seeing an unscrupulous doctor, report what you know to your state’s medical board. These professional organizations are the best equipped to review a doctor’s pattern of care, to decide if the doctor is prescribing inappropriately. Charts are often reviewed by other doctors who decide if the standard of care is being met.

 Underage drinking is serious. For each year you can postpone your child’s first experimental drug use, including alcohol, you reduce his risk of addiction by around five percent. (1) Don’t involve your kids in your own alcohol consumption; for example, don’t send you kids to the refrigerator to get you a beer. Don’t allow adolescents to drink in your house, fooling yourself with the idea of, “At least I know where they are.” Not only is it illegal, but it’s harmful.

 Don’t use drugs or alcohol to treat minor emotional discomfort, unless you have discussed it with your doctor. For example, don’t use pain pills to help you sleep. Don’t use the Xanax your doctor prescribed for your fear of flying to treat the sadness you feel from breaking up with a boyfriend. Try to get out of the mindset that there’s a pill for every bad feeling, and try to help your friends and family see this, too.

 See a doctor for the treatment of serious mental illness. Some mental disorders are so severe that they require medication. There are many non-addicting medications that treat depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. Getting the appropriate treatment has been shown to decrease your risk of developing an addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

 Monitor your adolescent’s friends. Youngsters with friends who use drugs are more likely to begin using drugs. Of course, most youngsters who experiment with drugs and alcohol won’t develop addiction, but the younger experimentation begins, the more likely it is that addiction will develop. Older siblings can be a good or harmful influence.

1. Richard K. Ries, David A. Fiellin, Shannon C. Miller, and Richard Saitz, Principles of Addiction Medicine, 4th ed. (Philadelphia, Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, 2009) ch.99, pp1383-1389.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Robin Robinette on July 21, 2014 at 12:36 am

    This is such EXCELLENT advice – it should be an LTE to every newspaper in the country! With your permission, I’d like to send it to mine, in the form of: “Dr. Jana Burson, a doctor in North Carolina who treats addiction, posted this on her blog and I feel it is such excellent advice I wanted to share it with my fellow newspaper readers. (Including website address of blog.)”

    Robin Robinette Rathbun


    Robert W Dail Memorial Treatment Center

    Commerce GA


  2. Posted by kevin on July 21, 2014 at 4:30 am

    I just went to my mmt provider in tn. I’m on 150 at the moment. Still having problems with my dose. I have to start with a cow score. Then blood, then the dr. Well I was notified they just had state in. They want everyone above 120 decreased. And nobody can go above 120 clinic wide. I’m sick of this rodeo with Tennessee and don’t know what to do. I can’t sit at the door and try to get everyone together and sign some kind of petition. I don’t know what to do but I do know everyone’s bodies are the same and they can’t say what one persons dose is good enough for the rest. That’s no different than saying that 25 mg of procardia 10 mg 3 times a day is more than enough to treat severe high blood pressure. Or effexor xr 75mg 1 time per day is enough to treat someone with bipolar that has been on everything else and took this medication for over a yr and is complaining of signs that show this dose is no longer effective. You just can’t do this. It’s inhumane and excuse my language but dam it he isn’t even a doctor that can prescribe medications to anyone. This kind of behavior should not be tolerated and isn’t even the federal standard of care. Please help west tennesee patient living in ky that doesn’t want to go to ky either cause there just as bad if not worse


  3. Posted by Judy Rummler on July 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Thank you for circulating this excellent advice. Another VERY important thing that people can do is to attend the FED UP! Rally on the Mall in D.C. on September 28th. I have attached our flyer and our platform. We are expecting thousands of people from across the country to join us in our call for federal action to end the opioid epidemic. The more people in attendance at the Rally, the louder our voice will be! More information is available on our Facebook page or on our website at Please let me know if you have any questions. Would you be willing to circulate our flyer and encourage your readers to attend? We also hope you will attend the Rally. Thank you! Judy Rummler

    *Judy Rummler,​ ChairFED UP! Rally Steering ​*

    *​President, ​Steve Rummler Hope Foundation*

    * * *612-865-1754 (cell)*


  4. I also believe one of the best things people can do is to treat opioid addiction like a disease and not a lack of moral fiber. When I was a counselor at an OTP many of the patients family members urged them to get off medication quickly due to the stigma associated with it. I’d guess a very low percentage of the population knows anything about chemical dependence. Perhaps the best thing we can do is help to educate as many people as possible. I wish there were many more blogs like this one to help spread the message.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: