Safe Ways to Dispose of Unused Prescription Drugs

Safe Ways to Dispose of Unused Prescription Drugs

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported more than four billion prescriptions were filled at retail pharmacies in 2015 in the United States—an overage of over 12 prescriptions for every man, woman, and child in the country; and every year, more than 70,000 children are rushed to hospital emergency rooms due to accidental poisoning or overdose from prescription medications. 

Experts believe one of the simplest ways to prevent such tragedies is to properly dispose of all unused prescription medication as the risk of accidental poisoning for children increases with every bottle of pills kept that should be destroyed. This is especially true for narcotic painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. In addition, sleep-aids like Ambien and anti-anxiety medications like Xanax are equally concerning; as is over the counter medications—particularly those that look like candy. 

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) stressed the importance of disposing of prescription drugs appropriately. It recommends that before throwing your unused medication away, you first take time to remove any personal information from container. The agency also recommended you take time to mix the medication with something unpalatable like dirt, kitty litter or coffee grounds and then seal it in a plastic bag before you toss it out. 

There are also authorized collection sites for unused medication. Such sites may be retail, hospital or clinic pharmacies and law enforcement locations. Some offer mail-back programs or collection receptacles or drop-boxes. 

The FDA also warned against giving your unused medication to family members or friends because doctors prescribe medicines based on your specific symptoms and medical history—something that works for you could be dangerous for someone else. 

To learn more about the nation’s formal drug disposal program, visit the Drug Enforcement Agency website at or call (800) 882-9539 to locate an authorized drug collection location in your community.

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