In 2017, at least 6 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Many of these prescription drugs were taken from the medicine cabinets of friends and family members.
If you’ve ever had a pain medicine prescription following a procedure, you may not have ended up using all of the medication. Once you’re feeling better, it’s not uncommon to forget about the prescription medication completely or decide to save it in case the pain returns.
Unfortunately, unused or expired medication is very easily lost, stolen or misused. In an effort to reduce the impact of this misuse—which includes addiction, overdose and accidental poisoning—the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) established April 27 as National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
There are Take Back days in both April and October, and with thousands of collection sites across the country, it’s easy to safely (and anonymously) drop off unused prescriptions and controlled substances. Last year, 949,046 pounds (or about 475 tons) of drugs were collected from 5,842 sites and disposed of safely by the DEA.
What about simply throwing unused medication out or flushing it down the toilet? There are a few reasons why these disposal methods are strongly discouraged:
- Even when in the trash, drugs can easily be stolen and then illegally used or sold.
- If drugs are thrown out, the active chemicals in the medications can pose a danger to sanitation workers. Once in a landfill, these chemicals can damage the surrounding environment or seep into water sources.
- Medicines that are flushed down the toilet are frequently not removed by water treatment plants or septic systems. These chemicals can end up polluting water sources, poisoning animals and contaminating our food and water supplies.
Keep your family, friends, community and environment safe this spring and find a time this month to collect your unused and expired prescription medicines. Then find a nearby collection site and safely dispose of your medications on April 27. We’ll be doing it too!