National Prescription Drug Take-Back​ Day


Have you taken a look at your medicine cabinet lately? Aside from cotton swabs, mouthwash and makeup remover, are there old, outdated prescription drugs in your cabinet? How do you dispose of old, outdated, expired or unneeded medications? Flush them down the toilet? Throw them out with your household trash? Not sure? Well, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is sponsoring an event this week that will help you safely dispose of old medications, including narcotic pain medications and oral chemotherapy medications.

This Saturday, October 26th, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The purpose of this organized event is to provide a “safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications”.

This is the 15th such event to be sponsored and coordinated between the DEA and local law enforcement agencies. At last April’s event, Americans turned in 468 tons (937, 443 pounds) of prescription drugs at over 6200 collection sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,900 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 16 previous Take Back events, the DEA and its partners have taken in over 11.8 million pounds—more than 5000 tons—of pills (DEA.gov).

Why is it important to dispose of prescription medications this way? There are a number of reasons:

  • Prevention of misuse/abuse of medications-especially prescription, narcotic pain medications. According to the DEA, the incidence of prescription drug abuse in the United States is rising at alarming rates. Many studies indicate that these medications are most often obtained/diverted from family members or friends. By properly disposing of unwanted, unused or expired medications through the National Prescription Drug Take Back, you are helping to combat the very real problem of prescription drug abuse.
  • The traditional practice of flushing old, unneeded or unwanted medications down the toilet has a profound effect on the environment by polluting drinking water. Some studies have also shown that human drugs can have an impact on the biology and behavior of fish and other sea animals. It is ideal to not add another potential source of pollution to our water.
  • Disposing of unwanted, unused or expired medications in the trash isn’t a great option either. Accidental ingestion of medications thrown in the trash is a real possibility, especially in homes with children and pets. If someone wants a narcotic pain medication badly enough, they may be willing to go through a person’s trash to get it. There is also potential environmental impact with disposal of medications with household trash. Likely these medications will end up in the landfill with the rest of our disposables.

It’s time to clean out those medicine cabinets, junk drawers and other places where unused, expired or unwanted medications are hiding in your home. To find a participating prescription drug take back site near you, visit the DEA diversion website.

Participating in this event is an easy way to make a difference in prescription drug diversion and misuse, make your home safer, and protect the environment from these substances. Events are being held October 26th from 10am2pm.

* Liquid medications are not accepted. IV medications are not accepted. Needles and syringes are not accepted. If you have liquid or IV medications, ask your pharmacist where to dispose of these properly. The FDA provides further information about the disposal of vials, syringes and needles.

**Missed the Take Back Day? Don’t worry – there are places that take unwanted meds all year long. Use the National Association of Pharmacy’s tool to find a drop off location: https://safe.pharmacy/drug-disposal/


Christina is a clinical oncology social worker and the Psychosocial Content Editor at OncoLink. Christina blogs about resources available to the cancer community, as well as general information about coping with cancer-practically, emotionally, and spiritually. Christina is also an instructor at the Penn School of Social Policy and Practice. In her spare time, she loves to knit and volunteer with her therapy dogs, Linus and Huckleberry. She also loves to travel, cook and is an avid Philly sports fan.

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