If you are prescribed opioids:

  • Talk with your doctor to fully understand the risks and benefits 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 other medications and nonpharmacologic options, like exercise.
  • Always tell your doctor about any side effects or concerns you may have.

Practice Responsible Use:

  • 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. It is very dangerous to combine opioids with other drugs, especially those that cause drowsiness.
  • Do not share or sell your prescription opioids.
  • Safely store your medications and dispose of any unused medications responsibly.

Medication Safe Storage

If you are prescribed opioids, there are ways to protect yourself and your loved ones. Practice these safe storage tips to avoid medication falling into the wrong hands.

Use a lock box to secure prescriptions.
A lock box is a safe alternative to a medicine cabinet and is used to prevent others from purposefully taking medications as well as preventing children from accidentally ingesting them.
Keep track of your medications.
Know the medications you have on hand, including the number of pills in each bottle. Use your prescriptions as directed for both your safety and to avoid any confusion about missing medications.
Dispose of unused medications.
Expired or unused medications should be properly disposed of as soon as possible. Leaving unused medications in the home creates more opportunity for misuse.
Talk to your family about your medications.
Explain to children and teens that you work closely with your doctor to ensure that your medications are safe and effective. Discuss the risks of taking medications that are not prescribed for you and that you are closely monitoring your medications at home.

Medication Disposal


Drop Box Locations:

Cannot make it to a drop box?

Please call your pharmacy, physician, or local police
department to inquire about purchasing a mail back
package to send in unused or expired medications.




What is an overdose?

According to the CDC, an opioid overdose happens when too much of the drug interrupts the brain's activity and body's natural drive to breathe. Overdose can happen to anyone using opioids, however there are certain factors that increase risk including:

  • Combining opioids with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Taking high daily doses or more than prescribed.
  • Taking illicit or illegal opioids.
  • Medical conditions such as sleep apnea or reduced kidney or liver function.
  • Age greater than 65 years old.

Signs of an Overdose:

  • Pale, blue skin
  • ​Slow, shallow breathing
  • Constricted pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Choking or gurgling
  • ​Limp body

Signs of Overmedication:

  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Confusion, slurred speech
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Very small, pinpoint pupils
  • Slow heartbeat or low blood pressure
  • Difficulty being awaken from sleep

What to do:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Administer Narcan, if available.
  • Keep the person awake and breathing.
  • Lie the person on their side.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.


Do's and Don'ts When Responding to an Overdose:

  • DO attend to the person's breathing by administering oxygen or performing rescue breathing and/or chest compressions.
  • DO administer Narcan and utilize a second dose, if no response to the first dose.
  • DO put the person in the "recovery position" on their side, if you must leave the person unattended for any reason.
  • DO stay with the person and keep them warm.
  • DON'T slap or forcefully stimulate the person; it will only cause further injury. Instead, try rubbing your knuckles on the sternum or light pinching to wake them.
  • DON'T put the person into a cold bath or shower. This increases the risk of falling, drowning, or going into shock.
  • DON'T inject the person with any substance. The only safe and appropriate treatment is Narcan.
  • DON'T try to make the person vomit drugs that may have been swallowed. Choking or inhaling vomit into the lungs can cause a fatal injury.



"Naloxone [Narcan] is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist—meaning that it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications."

In Wisconsin, pharmacists can sell naloxone without a written prescription. You can also receive Narcan through the needle exchange program by the Aids Resource Center of Wisconsin.


  • Is Narcan legal to carry? Yes.
  • Who should carry Narcan? Anyone at risk of overdose or who might come in contact with someone at risk of overdose.
  • Is Narcan harmful if given to someone who is not overdosing? Serious side effects are rare and the drug will have no effect on someone who is not overdosing on opioids.
  • Will Narcan reverse overdoses caused by other drugs? No, Narcan works specifically to reverse opioid overdose only.


: a mark of disgrace or infamy, a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation.

While substance use disorder is a disease, it is commonly perceived that the person struggling with substance use disorder is at fault and has control over their choices. Other conditions, such as cancer, are not stigmatized because the perception is that the person is not at fault for their condition. The reality is that neither condition stems from the fault or control of the victim, and we must begin to change the narrative around addiction in order to better support those in need of treatment.

How to Reduce the Stigma Around the Opioid Epidemic

  • Use first person language. Saying that a person has substance use disorder suggests that the person has a problem that can be addressed. Saying that someone is an addict implies that the person is the problem.
  • Use proper terminology to avoid stigma. Saying substance use disorder instead of addiction helps to reinforce the fact that the issue is a disease that needs treatment, rather than a personal flaw.
  • Use reputable sources for finding substance abuse or treatment information. While there are reputable sources of information online, there is also an abundance of false information or stigmatizing messages that are just as easy to find. Always check the source of your information before accepting and sharing the message.
  • Use social media responsibly. Similarly to the issue of finding false information online, there are plenty of false or misleading messages being spread on social media. It is all too easy to hit "share" without checking the source of the message. Social media is a great tool for reaching a large audience and garnering support for a cause. Be certain that the information you share is accurate and aim for messages that support those who struggle with substance use disorder before hitting "share."
  • Avoid sensational or fear based language. It is easy to get pulled in by headlines about "newer" or "bigger" drug threats, however using terminology that inflates the severity of the opioid epidemic also inadvertently increases stigma by suggesting that individuals that fall victim to substance use disorder are stupid, dangerous, or illogical
  • Perform a "language audit." Take a look at the terminology that you use on a regular basis and see if there are areas in which you could use less stigmatizing language. It takes time to make these new terms a habit, but making this effort to change the narrative will help to reduce stigma around the issue of substance use disorder.


“The power to label is

the power to destroy.”

― Allen Frances, Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against
Out-Of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma,
and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life



Hope Agenda
The HOPE Agenda (Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education) was formed in 2014 as an effort to combat Wisconsin's heroin epidemic. It includes legislation to support first responders being trained to use naloxone, an increase in drug disposal efforts, and stricter regulations on pharmacy pickups to reduce the rates of prescription fraud and diversion.

Good Samaritan Laws
Currently, in Wisconsin, state statutes protect individuals who provide emergency care from criminal prosecution. This includes protecting individuals who call 911, deliver a person to the emergency room, or possess drug paraphernalia or controlled substances during the emergency being reported. These statutes make it more likely that in the case of an overdose, the people around the individual will be more likely to seek emergency assistance rather than leave the person in fear that they will be prosecuted.

“We don't heal in isolation, but in community.”
― S. Kelley Harrell, Gift of the Dreamtime - Reader's Companion


Teresa's Story