If you have expired, unused, or unneeded prescription drugs in the house, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wants to make it easier for you to dispose of them. Saturday, September 26th has been designated as the 10th annual National Drug Take-Back Day. Sites throughout the United States have been chosen for unwanted prescription drug disposal from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Can one day really make a difference? The DEA has tried to make the process of prescription drug disposal as convenient as possible by assigning thousands of collection sites throughout the country. Since Take-Back Days were instituted, more than 4.1 million pounds (over 2,100 tons) of prescription drugs have been removed from circulation.
Why not just flush them down the toilet? Many drugs can be thrown in the household trash and it may be appropriate for a few drugs to be flushed down the toilet. Flushing is recommended for the small group of medicines that may be especially harmful, or even fatal, if they are ingested by someone other than in whom they were prescribed. Most of the drugs in this group are narcotic pain medicines. When flushing is recommended, specific disposal instructions will be included on the drug label or in the accompanying patient information sheet. In general, however, it is best to dispose of these medicines through a drug take-back program.
What if no instructions for disposal are available? If no instructions are given on the drug label the safest thing to do is to take them to a take-back program site. If there is no take-back program available in your area, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) advises that you to take the following steps:
- Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.
- Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
- Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
- Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
- The sealed container with the drug mixture, and the empty drug containers, can now be placed in the trash.
Why the concern about unused drugs? Keeping used prescription drugs in the home represents a risk for unintentional use or overdose as well as for illegal abuse of certain drugs, such as narcotic pain relievers. Additionally, concerns have been raised about trace levels of drugs found in rivers and lakes, and in some community drinking water supplies.
Prescription drug take-back programs for disposal are the best way to remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from the home and to reduce the chance that others may accidentally take the medicine. To find a collection site near you, go to the DEA search page and enter your zip code, county, or city. Alternately you can call 1-800-882-9539 to find out the nearest National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day disposal site.