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Importance of Safe Medication Disposal

Posted 02-26-2018

According to the Medicine Abuse Project, nearly 50% of Americans use one or more prescription medications, with over 10% using five or more. The evolution of modern medicines makes it possible for people to live healthier, longer lives. However, once a medication is no longer useful, needed, or wanted, they are often tossed in the trash or left forgotten in a medicine cabinet. Prescription medications are prescribed very carefully, and it’s equally important to ensure they’re properly and carefully disposed of. 

The Importance of Disposing of Medications Properly

Why not keep unneeded prescription drugs around in case you need them later? Here are a few of the reasons it’s so important to dispose of medications properly.

Potential for Accidental Use

Keeping medications that are no longer being used is a health risks and accidental use is a common problem, particularly when children are present in the home. In 2007, 9% of reported improper medicine use cases involved accidental exposure to another person’s drugs. Medications should always be safeguarded, and this includes disposing medications properly when they’re no longer needed.


Intentional Misuse and Abuse

Prescription medications, particularly controlled substances like pain medications, may be intentionally misused and abused to get high. When medications are not disposed of properly, they can easily fall into the wrong hands. They could be found by someone going through a trashcan or dumpster or a teenager looking for a quick high.

Health Risks

Failing to dispose of medications properly has the potential to lead to some serious health risks. Medications that have expired may be harmful to users. Sharing a medication with someone else can cause serious side effects.  



Infographic_MedicationDropOff.jpgHow to Dispose of Drugs Properly

The best way to dispose of prescription medications is to take medications to a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) authorized collector. Pharmacies usually have collection receptacles and hospitals and clinics with on-site pharmacies may also have a medicine collection receptacle authorized by the DEA. DEA-authorized mail-back programs are also available if you cannot get out of your home or find a local DEA authorized collector. Local law enforcement may also be able to dispose of unused medications safely.

If you don’t have access to a DEA-authorized collector here are some ways you can dispose of your medication properly from home.

  1. Take unused medication out of the original containers.
  2. Mix unused medication with an undesirable substance like cat litter or used coffee grounds.
  3. Place the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, or into a sealable bag.
  4. Conceal or remove any personal information including the Rx number on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker, or by scratching it off.
  5. Place sealed container or bag with the mixture and the empty drug containers into the trash.

Help PORT Health in our mission to end the misuse of prescription and over the counter drugs by properly disposing of your medications.