Prescription drug misuse is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the U.S. but that can be changed by proper disposal of unwanted, unused or expired medications. On April 28th, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is sponsoring National Medication Take Back Day to provide a safe venue to get rid of these medications.
According to the DEA, excess medications left at home are highly susceptible to accidental ingestion, misuse and abuse. The Partnership for a Drug Free America reports that approximately 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time every day. Studies show a majority of prescription drug abusers obtain these drugs from family and friends and the home medicine cabinet. Improper disposal, such as throwing medication in the garbage, can also lead to environmental contamination and unsafe drinking water.
The DEA take back program addresses this vital public safety and health issue. During the last DEA sponsored take back day in October 2011, Americans turned in almost 200 tons of unwanted or expired medications at more than 5,000 sites across the country.
To locate a collection site near you, visit this site and click on the “Collection Site Locator” link. In addition, many military installations are participating in the event, such as Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Carson, Colorado; the Naval Medical Center, San Diego; and Fort Benning, Georgia.
Prescription and over-the-counter solid dosage medications, like tablets and capsules are accepted although intravenous solutions, injectables and needles are not. Illicit substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine are not a part of this program.
If you have medications to dispose of at other times of the year, or if you miss Take Back Day, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests these steps for safely disposing of most unused or unwanted medications:
- Do not crush pills or capsules when you throw them away.
- Mix medications with an unpalatable substance, like kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
- Seal the mixture in a plastic bag and throw it in the trash.
While this is the best way to dispose of most medications, some should be flushed down a sink or toilet. Visit the FDA website for more information and a list of medications that can be safely disposed of by flushing
Proper disposal of unused prescription medications is an individual responsibility. It may be a hassle, but the safety and health of your family and community could be at stake. Make the effort to keep potentially dangerous medications out of the hands of people who might abuse them and out of our drinking water.
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