(Safely) Get Rid of Your Old Prescriptions on April 30

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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This Saturday, April 30, will be the 11th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

The take-back day is an event put on by the DEA Office of Diversion Control to offer an easy way for you to safely get rid of unwanted, unused, or expired medications.

Can’t I just throw out my old prescriptions?

Sometimes, but the take-back day offers a safe solution, especially for any controlled substances you no longer need and may want to get rid of.

For advice on how to safely dispose of prescriptions at home, see the guidelines from the FDA.

Isn’t it sometimes okay to use my expired medications?

Using a medication beyond the expiration date isn’t recommended.

The expiration date on prescription medications is set after extensive research to find out exactly how long the medication will stay safe and effective before use.

In many cases, using a medication after it expires can mean it has less potency and effectiveness—but some medications can cause harm if used after expiration.

If you’re ever in doubt about whether a prescription is still okay to use, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

How do I know how long are my prescription medications good for?

This can depend on the type of medication. For example, if you receive a topical medication such as a cream, ointment, eye drop, or ear drop, your prescription should have the expiration date on either the crimp of the tube or on the bottle.

However, if you receive a bottle of pills or liquid it might be a little harder to tell. Each individual pharmacy label is different so make sure to check with your pharmacy if you have any questions.

If you can’t find a date, it’s always best to check with your pharmacist—but most medications are good for one year from the date they were filled, which should always be listed on your prescription label.

Why else would I want to participate in the take-back day?

In the United States, prescription drug abuse and overdoses—including accidental ones—are at an all-time high. Studies have shown that over 50% of misused prescription pain relievers came from friends or relatives who had a prescription (this includes raiding family medicine cabinets).

Turning in unwanted medications, particularly controlled substances, through the take-back day can help make safer homes and communities.


What types of medications can I bring?

You can bring any unused, unwanted, and expired medications to the event for proper disposal.



Want to find an event near you?

Check out the DEA website to search for your closest location.

If you are unable to make it, or there isn’t a convenient location for you, don’t worry—there is usually another take-back day in the fall.

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