When you’re prescribed medications, it’s important to take them for as long as your physician recommends and in the correct dosage. People commonly make the mistake of stopping treatment early, especially with antibiotics, because they start to feel better before they’ve taken all of the medication. Stopping a medication treatment early can lessen its effects and allow your condition to worsen. For this reason, you should always have a discussion with your physician before you stop taking a medication you have been prescribed.
However, there are legitimate reasons that you would not take all of your medications. If you begin to experience adverse side effects, have an allergic reaction, or your pain eases to a state where you can begin taking a less powerful pain killer, your doctor will most likely recommend that you stop taking the medication you’re prescribed. Rather than sticking this leftover medication in your medicine cabinet, where they can expire or be used for unauthorized purposes, it’s best to dispose of them—but there’s a proper way to do so.
Medications that are thrown out improperly may result in accidental exposure or intentional misuse. There are several easy ways to dispose of your medications to ensure that they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) organizes two National Prescription Drug Take Back Days each year so that anyone can turn in unused medications safely and anonymously. The next Take Back Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.2 million Americans abused prescription psychotherapeutic drugs (medications used to affect emotions and behavior) and 3.3 million people abused prescription pain relievers. The survey also showed that a majority of the respondents obtained the prescription medications from a friend or relative.
Unused or expired prescription medications that are obtained from sources other than a pharmacist or physician have become a public safety issue. Misuse of medications can lead to accidental poisoning and overdose. Proper disposal can help save lives and even protect the environment.
The DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to cut down on prescription drug abuse by allowing anyone, even if the medications are not in their name, to turn in prescription medications so that they can be disposed of safely. On the 14th National Take Back Day in October 2017, 912,305 pounds (456 tons) of prescription medications were turned in for disposal at 5,321 collection sites across the country.
Finding Drug Take Back Locations in Your Area
The DEA has organized collection sites in communities around the country. To find a collection site near you, simply enter your zip code, county, city, and state into the Take Back Day Collection Site Locator. You can search for sites within a 10-, 25-, 50-, or 100-mile radius from your home.
Many communities also sponsor their own take back programs. Check with your local law enforcement to see if they are participating. You can also check the DEA’s database of approved Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locations to find a site near you that is licensed to dispose of unused medications year-round.
Some pharmacies also have mail-back programs or disposals kiosks for unused prescriptions. Ask your pharmacist if they provide any sort of medication disposal program.
Proper Medication Disposal
If you’re unable to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day or make it to an approved disposal site, don’t worry. There are several things you can do to dispose of medications safely at home. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that consumers and caregivers remove expired, unwanted, or unused medications from their home as soon possible to reduce the chance that others may accidentally take or intentionally misuse the unneeded medicine.
Below are a few tips to help you dispose of your prescriptions in a way that is safe for the environment and prevents misuse.
Read Labels – Some prescription medications provide specific instructions for disposal on the label. Check the label on your prescription bottles for instructions first before resorting to other methods of disposal.
Household Trash – Most medications can be placed in your trash can at home after taking a few quick precautions.
Flushing – Some medications may be more harmful than others when even just one dose is taken by someone or consumed by a pet who has not been prescribed that medication. To prevent accidental exposure or ingestion, it is recommended that these medications be disposed of through a take back program or a DEA-authorized collector. If these options are not available, the prescription drug labeling may recommend flushing the medication down the toilet or sink. DO NOT flush medications unless the prescription label specifically instructs you to do so.
Some communities have banned this practice out of concerns for the environment. Check your community’s laws and regulations before flushing medications.
Saving Money on Prescriptions
Prescriptions can be expensive. With the Community Cares Rx Prescription Discount card, you can save up to 70 percent on generics and up to 20 percent on brand-name medications. All you have to do is download your card today and find a Community Cares Rx partner location near you to start saving.