Unused medications pose risks

How to safely dispose of expired and unused drugs.

Have you cleaned out your medicine cabinet lately? Did you come across medications that are expired or that you no longer need? Do you wonder what to do with medicines you may have on hand that you no longer need? Michigan State University Extension points out that there are safe and unsafe methods of disposing of medications.

Harm can be done to people, pets and the environment if medications are not disposed of properly. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the majority of teens who abuse drugs get them from family members, friends and the home medicine cabinet. Unused drugs that are thrown in the trash can be retrieved and taken, or sold illegally. If they’re flushed they can contaminate the water supply.

To avoid harm, it’s best to find out if there is a medicine take-back program in your community. You can find out if your community offers such a service by contacting your city or county government household trash and recycling service. Law enforcement agencies may also sponsor take-back events. Another helpful resource is your local pharmacist. He or she may know of a medicine disposal program in your area.

Through the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, the DEA has developed regulations that outline what we can do to transfer our prescription drugs to authorized collectors so that they may be disposed of safely. It’s easy to find an authorized site that will take back your unused medications. Simply go to the DEA Office of Diversion Control website, click on the “Got Drugs?” icon and follow the links to a database where you enter your city or zip code. When I did this the names of two local pharmacies came up, both within 15 miles of my house. Another option is to call 800-882-9539 and ask for sites near you.

If, for some reason you are not able to locate a drug take-back program or site, there are some steps you can take to dispose of unused medications, suggested by the DEA:

  1. Take the medications out of their bottles or containers.
  2. Mix the medications with a non-edible material such as kitty litter, or an unpalatable substance such as used coffee grounds. Keep tablets and capsules whole (do not crush them).
  3. Put the mixture in a sealed container, such as a zippered plastic bag.
  4. Throw the container in your household trash.
  5. Before throwing out your prescription pill bottle or box, be sure to scratch out all of the information on it including your name, your physician’s name and the name of the medication.

Keep your family and environment safe by taking control of your unused medications.

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