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One honest conversation this holiday could save a life.

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to come together to give thanks for health and happiness. But as loved ones gather this holiday, consider this time together a valuable opportunity for something else: an honest conversation about opioid misuse and abuse.  

Opioids are a class of drugs commonly used to reduce pain. Heroin, a commonly known illegal drug, is considered an opioid, as are many of the legal prescription pain relievers prescribed by doctors, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine and many others.

Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor. But these prescription medications are being misused at an alarming rate. In fact, opioids are now one of the leading causes of injury-related deaths in Washington state. More people die from overdose than from car crashes. We can all play a role in preventing opioid abuse. Having a conversation with family or friends is a simple step to take.

It’s not easy to talk about, but a meaningful discussion this holiday about the real dangers of opioid misuse and abuse could save a loved one’s life. Here are some tips to help start the important conversation:

  • Arm yourself with the facts. The more you know, the more you can share with others. You can have an informed discussion backed by facts and be prepared to answer questions with confidence. Find accurate information here:
  • Talk with your kids. It’s never too early to talk about the dangers of opioids. Kids are 50 percent less likely to use drugs when parents tell them about the risks associated with opioid misuse and abuse.
  • Discuss pain-relief alternatives. Prescription pain medication can be highly addictive. If a loved one has been prescribed a painkiller, discuss the risks and encourage them to talk with their doctor about other options for managing pain.
  • Offer love, not judgement. A loved one struggling with opioid abuse needs to know you’ll be there, even when things get tough. Keep it a constructive conversation, not a lecture. Do more listening than talking, ask questions and reassure them they’re not alone.
  • Know where to go for help. If a loved one asks for help, acknowledge their courage and offer your support. Remind them that treatment works. Encourage them to see a doctor for an evaluation or call the Washington Recovery Help Line at 1 (866) 789-1511.
  • Be part of the solution. 75 percent of opioid misuse starts with people using medication that wasn’t prescribed for them – usually taken from a friend or family member. Protect your loved ones and talk with them about locking up medications and safely disposing expired or unused prescriptions at a take-back program near you. Find one at

When it comes to preventing opioid misuse and abuse, change can happen with one conversation. Make a difference this holiday and help keep your loved ones safe.


Sources: Washington Healthy Youth Coalition, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Washington State Department of Health