National Take Back Day

What Do You Do with Your Prescription Drugs?

You or someone you know has prescription drugs in the home. Most people take care to properly store their medications so that they do not get into the hands of young children or someone who may abuse them. It’s important to also dispose of medication that is expired or that you don’t plan on taking in a responsible way to also forestall abuse and misuse. Never take medications that are expired or are damaged in some way because they may no longer be effective and can even cause harm. More than 40% of medications that are sold are believed to go unused. Here’s how to dispose of medication in a way that is safe for your loved ones, prevents abuse, and is safe for the environment.

What Does Safe Disposal Look Like?

  1. Make sure you’re not getting more medication than you need
  2. Periodically check for automatic refills to help manage the correct amount supplied
    1. If you don’t stay on top of this, you might end up paying for medications that you don’t use
  3. Check the label to see if it specifies how to dispose of the medication
  4. A few medications should be flushed down the toilet because they could be harmful even in one dose
    1. Flushing gets rid of them quickly and reduces the danger of abuse or misuse
    2. Never flush a medication unless the directions specifically tell you to do so

If you don’t want to dispose of medications at home, and there are no specific instructions, you can dispose of medications at local take back programs through the DEA or your local community pharmacy or law enforcement agency take back days. Call your city to see what’s available near you. If no take back program is available, the simplest way to dispose of medications is by throwing them in the trash at home following these steps:

  1. Remove the medication from the container and mix it with something undesirable, like kitty litter, dirt, or coffee grounds
  2. Seal the mixture in a bag, can, or other container that prevents leaking
  3. Throw the container in the trash

Protect your privacy by destroying the personal information on your prescription label. Never give your unwanted medications to friends. Your meds are prescribed for you based on your symptoms and medical history. Something that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.

Looking for a Take back Location near You?

Visit https://takebackday.dea.gov/ to look up a collection site in your area.

Robin S. Smith, MS, LCMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in clinical practice in Bethesda MD, and specializes in relationship issues for couples, families, and individuals, for improved quality of life. His clinical specialties include: transition to parenthood for new and expecting parents, infidelity, sex and intimacy issues, premarital counseling, and trauma. Robin has given talks to various groups including hospital administrators, graduate students, therapists, and child birth educators. He is the primary contributor to The Couple and Family Clinic Blog.

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