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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Guest Opinion: Pandemic boosts risk of opioid misuse — here’s what you can do to prevent it

Dr. Charissa Fotinos

In light of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, families are spending more time in their homes. This strategy helps reduce the virus’s toll on our state, but it can also increase the risk of opioid misuse.

With people spending more time at home, there’s a greater probability of someone having access to medication that wasn’t prescribed to them. We know that 75% of opioid misuse begins when people use medication that wasn’t prescribed for them – usually taken from a friend or family member.

As we all take necessary precautions to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities, we can also take important actions to combat the opioid epidemic.

Three simple steps that can save lives:

Lock up your meds. Keep your opioid prescriptions in a safe place, like a locking cabinet or locking medicine bag. Never store unlocked medications in a bathroom where others can easily access them.

Dispose of your unused opioid medications on your next trip to the pharmacy. Safely disposing of your unused medications at a take-back site helps keep your family safe. There are hundreds of take-back sites around the state, including many pharmacies. Go to to find a location.

Start a conversation. Research has shown that kids are 50% less likely to use drugs when parents talk to them about the risks. With kids at home during school closures and many parents also at home, there are more opportunities to connect.

Opioid use disorder continues to harm families and communities across our state. Just like with the coronavirus pandemic, everyone plays a part in preventing opioid misuse. Take action, whether it is having a conversation, storing prescription medications safely or disposing of them when they are no longer needed. And never share your prescriptions.

If you or a loved one is concerned about opioid use disorder, call or visit the Washington Recovery Helpline at (866) 789-1511 or For information about preventing opioid misuse, visit

Dr. Charissa Fotinos is a deputy chief medical officer for the Washington State Health Care Authority.

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