Dispose of Medicine at Home For National Take Back Day

What is National Take Back Day? 

National Take Back Day is a part of the DEA initiative to limit the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs by safely and anonymously collecting unused or expired prescription medications at approved collection sites. It usually occurs twice annually nationwide, once in the spring and once in the fall. 2020’s Spring National Take Back Day has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but you can still do your part this year by safely disposing of old medicines at home. 

Disposing of Old Medications at Home 

FDA guidelines advise disposing of old medicines in the following ways: 

  • Flushing Medicine: Some medications are especially dangerous to individuals when misused, which is why it is recommended that for these select medicines that you flush them either down a toilet or down a sink–but this does not apply to all medicines. Look at the label or patient information leaflet if you have one to determine if your medication is one that should be flushed, or see the FDA flush list here.
  • Dispose in the Trash: If your medication is not one of the medicines listed in the FDA flush list, it can be safely disposed of in the household trash if you follow a few important steps:
    1. Remove your drugs from their original containers and mix them with used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. Mixing your old drugs with undesirable material makes it less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.
    2. Put the medicine mixture into a sealable container- like a ziplock bag or plastic food container- to ensure that it doesn’t leak or spill.
    3. Dispose of the safely contained drugs in the trash.
    4. Take the medication packaging and scratch out any personal information printed on it to protect your identity and privacy, and dispose of that as well. 

It is preferable to dispose of expired or unwanted medication through DEA collection sites, but at-home disposal- when done properly- is an effective way to keep unsafe medications out of your home and away from loved ones who may abuse them. In times like these it is important to be as vigilant as possible to dispose of medications responsibly. 

Why is it Important to Dispose of Expired Medicine? 

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.2 million Americans misused prescription drugs in 2016 alone. These drugs were most often obtained from family members and friends, typically from, “the home medicine cabinet.” Considering the ongoing opioid crisis occurring in the United States, it is especially important for individuals who have unused prescription opioids in their medicine cabinets to dispose of them in a safe, effective manner, which is just what National Take Back day aims to do. The rate of opioid overdose deaths increased by 200% between 2010 and 2017 in New York State alone, according to the NYS Department of Health’s 2019 Annual Opioid Report. Disposing of your old prescription drugs is a good way to ensure that they are not ultimately misused by at-risk friends or family. 

How Else Can I Help? 

If you want to help further promote and raise awareness for National Take Back Day, the DEA provides a digital partnership toolbox that includes printable posters and pamphlets, as well as postable social media images for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These are useful tools when it comes to spreading the word through your social media circles. Despite the postponement of Take Back Day, these materials can still be a useful reminder that people should get rid of old prescription medications. 

If you or a loved one are suffering from prescription medication addiction, New York State has resources that can help get you on the path to recovery.