Prescription drug misuse is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the U.S., but that can be changed by proper disposal of unwanted, unused or expired medications. On April 28th, the Drug Enforcement Agency is sponsoring National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to provide a safe venue to get rid of these medications.
According to the DEA, excess medications left at home are highly susceptible to accidental ingestion, misuse and abuse. A 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed 6.4 million Americans abused controlled prescription drugs, and that a majority of them were obtained from family and friends and the home medicine cabinet. Improper disposal, such as throwing medication in the garbage, can also lead to environmental contamination and unsafe drinking water.
The DEA take back program addresses this vital public safety and health issue. During the 14th DEA sponsored take back day in October 2017, Americans turned in about 456 tons (912,305 pounds) of unwanted or expired medications at more than 5,300 sites across the country.
To locate a collection site near you, visit this site. In addition, many military installations are participating in the event, such as Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado; and the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
Prescription and over-the-counter solid dosage medications, like tablets and capsules are accepted, although intravenous solutions, injectables and needles are not. Illicit substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine are not a part of this program.
If you have medications to dispose of at other times of the year, or if you miss Take Back Day, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests these steps for safely disposing of most unused or unwanted medications:
- Do not crush pills or capsules when you throw them away.
- Mix medications with an unpalatable substance, like kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
- Seal the mixture in a plastic bag and throw it in the trash.
While this is the best way to dispose of most medications, some should be flushed down a sink or toilet. Visit the FDA website for more information and a list of medications that can be safely disposed of by flushing.
Proper disposal of unused prescription medications is an individual responsibility. It may be a hassle, but the safety and health of your family and community could be at stake. Make the effort to keep potentially dangerous medications out of the hands of people who might abuse them and out of our drinking water.