Education, prevention about opioid misuse is critical in stopping devastating endemic in Idaho

Patients should always lock up prescriptions and can safely dispose of old or unwanted medications at Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, write guest columnists Steve Olson and Kendall Nagy.

pill bottle

In 2018, Idaho providers prescribed opioids to 61 out of every 100 persons, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (Getty Images)

In 1978, Vicodin was first introduced in the United States to help patients manage pain from injuries, surgeries, cancer or other ailments. 

Opioids, such as Vicodin, serve a very important role in pain management, yet what we thought was a wonder drug to help with pain management has a sinister side: a high risk of addiction. 

Many of us know someone who struggles with an opioid problem after unintentionally getting addicted. In 2018, Idaho providers prescribed opioids to 61 out of every 100 persons.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid crisis has skyrocketed across the country. We are seeing numbers like we never have before.

Opioid use disorder has no boundaries; it does not discriminate among demographics, neighborhoods, cities, towns, or rural areas, and its statistics are frightening. Since 2015, there have been 25% more opioid related deaths nationwide. In Idaho, an estimated 60,000 people misused some form of pain reliever in 2021.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 136 people die every day from an opioid overdose. Between September of 2020 to September of 2021, the amount of drug overdose deaths has increased by nearly 16 % in the United States. In Idaho, there has been a 22% increase

The Idaho Department of Education found that in 2019, 14% of high school students reported misuse of an opioid, and of those students, 23% of them claimed they received the prescription from a family member or friend

Data from the Meridian Anti-Drug Coalition showed 83% of community members participating in the fall 2020 Prescription Drug Take-Back event said they know prescription drug abuse is a problem among local youth. However, 73% of participants reported they do not keep their medications in a locked and secure location. 

Education and prevention about opioid misuse is critical in stopping this devastating endemic. We encourage our community members to lock up their prescription drugs and communicate with their clinicians about the dangers of opioids. 

To safeguard medications being used in your home, Vaultz Medication Lock Boxes are available through Central District Health Department. Locking medications can benefit Idahoans by increasing means restriction for suicidal behaviors, preventing accidental and intentional overdose and poisoning among vulnerable populations. Learn more about available prescription drug safety supplies at or by calling 208-327-8604.

As you wrap up your spring-cleaning, take an extra 15 minutes to clean out your medicine cabinet. Look for any unused opioids, prescription drugs or expired cold medicine, and drop them off at our Prescription Drug Take-Back Day event on April 30. 

Blue Cross of Idaho and the Meridian Anti-Drug Coalition are pleased to once again partner to help Treasure Valley residents safely dispose of unwanted prescription drugs. Our event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be in the Blue Cross of Idaho parking lot at 3000 E. Pine Ave. in Meridian. 

To find the closest Prescription Take-back event nearest you visit To locate the nearest permanent drop box in your area, visit

If you or a family member needs help with opioid addiction, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Help Services Administration at 800-622-HELP or the 2-1-1 IdahoCareLine. Both are a free, confidential treatment and referral information service.

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Steve Olson
Steve Olson

Steve Olson is the director of pharmacy management for Blue Cross of Idaho.

Kendall Naggy
Kendall Naggy

Kendall Nagy is the substance abuse prevention coordinator and Meridian Anti-Drug Coalition director.