How to dispose of unwanted drugs

Saturday is Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Set aside time to do some spring cleaning …. in your medicine cabinet.

It’s time for spring cleaning … and that means your medicine cabinet, too.

A recent study found that 24 percent of teenagers abuse prescription drugs found at home because they think they’re safer than illegal drugs. Properly disposing of unwanted prescriptions to prevent abuse is just one of the reasons behind the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day this Saturday, April 30.

Another reason is to get rid of expired medications. While many prescription medications are not harmful after their expiration date, they typically lose potency.

“People will save antibiotics, for example, and unknowingly contribute to antibiotic resistance by not taking the full course of therapy or treating future illnesses with the wrong type of antibiotic,” said Kate Probst, pharmacist with Norton Healthcare.

Additional reasons to properly dispose of unwanted prescriptions:

  • • Lowers the chance of children, pets or drug abusers taking the drugs
  • • Lowers your chance of abuse or an overdose
  • • Protects our drinking water, landfills and soil from added chemicals

Probst says the best way to dispose of outdated or unwanted prescription drugs is to take them to a DEA take-back location. If that’s not possible or convenient, most prescriptions can be safely thrown into the garbage.

To properly throw out drugs:

  • • Remove tablets and capsules from their original containers and mix in coffee grounds, kitty litter or sawdust. Do not crush tablets or capsules.
  • • Add salt, flour or spices to bottles of liquid drugs. Tape lids with heavy tape.
  • • Seal in a plastic bag or container.
  • • Throw the container or bag away in your trash.

Flushing old medicines down the toilet or sink is a big no-no.

“We know now that this may cause the drugs to show up in our water and soil,” Probst said.

Doing your part to dispose of unwanted prescriptions is the right thing to do and may prevent a tragedy. Find a list of locations participating in Take Back Day on April 30.

Get more information on drug disposal and a list of ongoing take-back locations.

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