Heart Health

Take back the medicine cabinet

October 25, 2011
CHI Health


Take back the medicine cabinet

photo courtesy: DEADiversion.usdoj.gov

You don’t keep cheese past the expiration date – so why should expired or unwanted medications be any different?

The answer: they shouldn’t! Experts warn that more than seven million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs – many of which are obtained from family and friends, sometimes stolen right out of the home medicine cabinet.

That’s why the DEA is teaming with local law enforcement and health officials to sponsor National Drug Take Back Day this Saturday, October 29. Last year, the DEA collected a whopping 309 tons of prescription drugs in its first two take back events – proving the need for such events.

But why can’t you just keep old prescriptions, so long as they aren’t expired? You never know when you might need that medication again, right? Unfortunately, Scot Adams, Nebraska’s director of the Division of Behavioral Health warns that, “Medicines in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. The rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses.”

And what’s so wrong with just tossing out the drugs when they’re no longer needed? Throwing drugs in the trash may make it possible for them to fall into the wrong hands. Anyone from an addict to a child could come across the stash. You’ll also want to avoid flushing any excess medication, as this can result in contamination of the water supply.

Follow this link and type in your county, city and state or your zip code to find a disposal location near you.

If – and we emphasize if – the nearest take back event is too far from your home for you to attend, then our Alegent Health pharmacists offer these tips from the FDA to properly dispose of unused medications in your household trash.

  1. Take the medication out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. This will make it less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.
  2. Put them in a sealed bag, empty can or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  3. Before throwing out the medicine container, scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.
  4. When in doubt, talk to your pharmacist.

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