The Oregon Healthy Teens Survey is an anonymous and voluntary survey of eighth- and 11th-grade youth sponsored by the Oregon Health Authority in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Education. In 2019, 8.4% of all Union County eighth-grade youth surveyed reported using prescription drugs, such as OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin, without a doctor’s orders within the past 30 days while 1.5% of Union County 11th graders reported using prescription drugs without doctor’s orders.

While the data shows a relatively low number of youth using prescription drugs, it is apparent that eighth-grade youth are more likely to use prescription drugs outside of doctor’s orders. Starting a conversation with your child may feel awkward and uncomfortable, but there are resources available for parents, guardians, teachers and counselors to use:

Proper storage and disposal of expired or unused prescription medications can help prevent substance misuse. Store medication locked in a cabinet, drawer or in a locking safe to keep out of reach of children. Properly disposing of medication keeps substances out of the wrong hands and our environment healthy. To learn more about proper prescription medication storage and disposal, visit

Union County’s next Drug Take Back event will take place on Saturday, Oct. 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the La Grande Safeway, 2111 Adams Ave. Community members can drive through and drop off any unused meds.


Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication that works rapidly to reverse an opioid overdose when administered at the right time. Naloxone works only for opioid drugs, including morphine, heroin and fentanyl. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the brain cell receptors that opioids activate. When administered during an overdose, naloxone can restore breathing within minutes.

Although the medication is commonly used by first responders such as EMTs and police officers, anyone can carry naloxone for any reason. Individuals who are prescribed opioids or have a current or history of substance use disorder should have naloxone on hand.

Naloxone is unique because it has no harmful side effects. It is not a controlled substance and has no potential for abuse or dependence. The medication does not affect someone who has no opioids in their system. Naloxone can be used on an individual if the cause of the medical condition is unknown and can be administered as a precaution.

If you are interested in learning more about naloxone or purchasing, talk to your doctor or local pharmacist.

Heal Safely campaign

The Oregon Health Authority, in partnership with important stakeholders across Oregon, recently launched Heal Safely, a campaign that empowers Oregonians to manage temporary pain from an injury or surgery without the use of prescription painkillers. Doctors sometimes prescribe opioid painkillers, but your body can become dependent on these drugs in as few as three days.

We’ve all seen the negative impacts of opioids on our communities, and many of us have been looking for better ways to heal. There are effective and affordable options for managing pain — including non-opioid medicines, topical creams, physical therapy and acupuncture. Many of these are covered by health insurance, including the Oregon Health Plan. The key is to ask.

Pain is personal. Make a plan to heal safely after an injury or surgery, without the risks and side effects of prescription opioids. Everyone deserves safe, effective options that will help them rest, recover and get back to daily life. To learn more about safer options for managing short-term pain, visit

Red Ribbon month

There are lots of ways you can get involved in your local community. October will be Red Ribbon month in Union County. It is an ideal way for people and communities to unite and take a visible stand against drug use. Show your personal commitment to a drug-free lifestyle through the symbol of the Red Ribbon during October. The theme “Be Happy. Be Brave. Be Drug-Free” will help amplify the campaign’s mission to encourage children, families and communities to live healthy, happy and drug-free lives.

Union County youth will be making Red Ribbon month posters that can be shared on social media and hung on their doors at home.

For more information about Red Ribbon month in Union County, visit the Union County Safe Communities Coalition’s Facebook page:

About the Authors

Kary Tuers and Holly Sorensen are members of the Union County Safe Communities Coalition.

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