Have you taken a look at your medicine cabinet lately? Aside from cotton swabs, mouthwash, and makeup remover, are there old, outdated prescription drugs in your cabinet? How do you dispose of old, outdated, expired, or unneeded medications? Flush them down the toilet? Throw them out with your household trash? Not sure? Well, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is sponsoring an event this week that will help you safely dispose of old medications, including narcotic pain medications and oral chemotherapy medications.

This Saturday, April 30th, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The purpose of this organized event is to provide a “safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications”. Please be advised that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, drop-off sites may be more limited this year. 

This is the 17th such event to be sponsored and coordinated between the DEA and local law enforcement agencies. At last October’s event, Americans turned in 372 tons (744,082 lbs) of prescription drugs at over 4982 collection sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners. 

Why is it important to dispose of prescription medications this way? There are a number of reasons:

  • Prevention of misuse/abuse of medications-especially prescription, narcotic pain medications. According to the DEA, the incidence of prescription drug abuse in the United States is rising at alarming rates. Many studies indicate that these medications are most often obtained/diverted from family members or friends. By properly disposing of unwanted, unused, or expired medications through the National Prescription Drug Take-Back, you are helping to combat the very real problem of prescription drug abuse.
  • The traditional practice of flushing old, unneeded or unwanted medications down the toilet has a profound effect on the environment by polluting drinking water. Some studies have also shown that human drugs can have an impact on the biology and behavior of fish and other sea animals. It is ideal to not add another potential source of pollution to our water.
  • Disposing unwanted, unused, or expired medications in the trash isn’t a great option either. Accidental ingestion of medications thrown in the trash is a real possibility, especially in homes with children and pets. If someone wants a narcotic pain medication badly enough, they may be willing to go through a person’s trash to get it. There is also a potential environmental impact with the disposal of medications with household trash. Likely these medications will end up in the landfill with the rest of our disposables.

It’s time to clean out those medicine cabinets, junk drawers, and other places where unused, expired, or unwanted medications are hiding in your home. To find a participating prescription drug take-back site near you, visit the DEA diversion website.

Participating in this event is an easy way to make a difference in prescription drug diversion and misuse, make your home safer, and protect the environment from these substances. Events are being held on April 30th from 10 am- 2 pm.

* Liquid medications are not accepted. IV medications are not accepted. Needles and syringes are not accepted. If you have liquid or IV medications, ask your pharmacist where to dispose of these properly. The FDA provides further information about the disposal of vials, syringes, and needles.

**Missed the Take Back Day? Don’t worry – there are places that take unwanted meds all year long. Use the National Association of Pharmacy’s tool to find a drop off location: https://safe.pharmacy/drug-disposal/