If you have old medications sitting around the house, and you’re not sure how to dispose of them, you might want to consider participating in National Drug Take Back Day, happening across the country this Saturday, October 27th.
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, created by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposing prescriptions. It works—last year, the DEA collected 949,096 pounds of prescription medications.
The event will take place for the second time this year on Saturday, October, 27th from 10 AM to 2 PM. All collection sites are anonymous and free of charge.
To see collection sites in your area, visit Take Back Day’s website at https://takebackday.dea.gov. Also, Google Earth worked with the DEA to create a tool to help people locate collection sites. Visit the website here, and zoom in on the map to find a location near you.
Is there a limit on the number of medications I can bring?
No. There is no limit on the number of medications you can bring to dispose of during National Drug Take Back Day, so don’t hesitate to bring medications from yourself and your loved ones.
Are there alternative methods for throwing away old or unwanted medications?
Yes. If you are unable to attend the annual event, there are other methods for prescription medication disposal. The FDA offers a guide for how to dispose of unused medications. The EPA also offers a fact sheet on how to dispose of your medications properly.
Some medications can be placed into the household trash using the following specific guidelines from the FDA:
- Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something unpalatable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt or cat litter. This makes the medicine less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.
- Put the mixture in something you can close (a resealable zipper storage bag, empty can or another container) to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
- Throw the container in the garbage.
- With the remaining packing, scratch out all your personal information and throw the packaging away.
Instead of tossing your medications yourself, you can also consider using a mail-in disposal kit. These are offered by private companies who will dispose of your medications or other pharmaceutical waste for you. However, they will cost you money and may not accept controlled substances. Some examples of mail-in programs include the Takeaway Environmental Return System and the Heritage Pharmaceutical Disposal mail-back program.
You can also safely dispose of some medications by flushing them down the toilet. Check out this FDA list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing.
How can I dispose of used pen needles, syringes or medications that have needles attached?
Proper disposal of used pen needles, syringes or medications that have needles attached is important in order to prevent an accidental needle stick. You should check with your local authorities for instructions on proper disposal of these products. However, keep in mind the following suggestions:
- Purchase the classic red sharps biohazard container from your local pharmacy to safely store used pen needles, syringes, injectable devices, lancets and other sharp medical devices. Your doctor can write a prescription for you as it may be covered by your prescription insurance.
- When your biohazard container is ready to be emptied, place the contents into a hard plastic container such as an old laundry detergent bottle, a bleach bottle or similar household cleaner bottle. Tape the bottle up and label the bottle as containing sharps. In some states, you can then place these containers directly into your household trash.
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