March 18, 2016
The weather is warming and spring is in the air. When doing spring cleaning, don’t forget to look at your medications. It’s a good time to look in your medicine cabinet and get rid of items that have expired or are no longer used.
It can be easy to forget about a medication that you no longer need, or has been changed to an alternate therapy. Spring cleaning can be a good reminder to check and see if any such items are in your home as it is important to dispose of them properly to help reduce harm from accidental exposure or intentional misuse. Unfortunately, many people feel prescription or over the counter medications are safer to use recreationally than those purchased illegally. Often, this can include teenagers who know it is easy to get prescription pain relievers from their own or a friend’s parent’s medicine cabinet. Many of these children end up in the emergency room for unintentional overdoses. Some of the unlikely culprits are acetaminophen (Tylenol), opioids or benzodiazepines, cough and cold medicines, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen, and antidepressants.
It is important to remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from your home as quickly as possible. Storage in a controlled climate will ensure that your medications will be safe to use until the expiration date noted on the package. Liquids and ointments that have expired also carry the risk of bacterial growth. An expired antibiotic can fail, leading to more a more serious infection. Taking leftover medication from an unfinished prescription can lead to antibiotic resistance. If you have expired or unfinished medicine, the best thing to do is to dispose of it properly.
A relatively new means of disposal are medicine take-back programs. Periodically, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), sponsors National Prescription Drug Take-Back events. At these events, collection sites will be set up in communities nationwide to allow consumers to drop off unneeded or expired medications.
Usually the authorized collection sites will be a pharmacy: retail, hospital or clinic pharmacies, or a participating law enforcement agency. Some authorized collection sites may simply be a collection receptacle, sometimes called “drop-boxes,” with no staffer required. Some pharmacies have for purchase a pre-paid mailer for unwanted medicines. Once purchased, the customer puts their medicines in the pre-addressed mailer and sends it to an environmental returns program for disposal.
Consumers can visit the DEA’s website for more information about drug disposal, and National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events to locate a DEA-authorized collector in their area. Consumers may also call the DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539 to find an authorized collector in their community. Another resource is National Community Pharmacy Association’s (NCPA) Dispose My Meds program.
Disposal in Household Trash
If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, the FDA recommends disposal of most medicines in the household trash, following these steps.
- Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds;
- Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;
- Throw the container in your household trash;
- Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable; then dispose of the container.
At Epic, we aim to help maintain your health. While we cannot dispose of unused or expired medication, we can fill your medications in a timely manner, sending them to your home for your convenience. It’s always easy to reach us to ask for a refill, or let us know you no longer need a previously ordered item. Stay healthy and look forward to summer!