5 Drug Disposal Safety Tips for All Ages

With the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA), National Prescription Take Back Day fast approaching, this is the perfect time to help educate your family, neighbors and friends about the importance of drug disposal safety. 

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million adults 12 years of age and older battled a substance abuse disorder in 2017, so let's not make their struggle harder by leaving expired or unused medications in accessible locations. We must find a way to do our part! In addition to NSDUH's staggering drug use statistics, drug abuse and addiction cost American society more than $740 billion annually in workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and crime-related costs.

The statistic that really raises red flags is that 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs and many of these medications come from our own medicine cabinets.  The sole purpose of the Take Back Day is to bring awareness of the importance of disposing medications in a secure and responsible manner.  On too many occasions, prescription drugs find their way into the wrong hands and result in tragic circumstances.

We can step up our game to help with this problem by following these 5 safe disposal tips:

  • Remove all personal information from the bottle - this will protect your privacy and identity.
  • Take medications to Drug Take Back Location near you - this DEA website allows you to plug in your zip code and state and it will give you the closet controlled substance public disposal location. If this is too difficult to accomplish, consider:
  • Disposing in household garbage - remove all medications from the bottle and mix them in a container with coffee grinds, dirt or even cat liter to prevent any children or pets who may be going through garbage looking for medications.
  • Flush medications down toilet - if your medication is on the FDA flush list, you may flush dangerous medicine down the toilet to prevent children and other individuals from accessing them.  FDA recommends flushing medications with these ingredients:
  • Acetaminophen
  • Benzhydrocodone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Diazepam
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Meperidine
  • Methadone
  • Methylphenidate
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Sodium Oxybate
  • Tapentadolm

As for any concerns about the environment after flushing medications, a 2017 study revealed an insignificant risk to the environment and human health.  The FDA reports more drug waste enters water supplies by people taking them and passing them through their bodies.

  • Disposing Inhalers - safe disposal of these products can be tricky due to environmental concerns. Take time to read the product handling instructions. Inhalers can be dangerous if punctured or thrown into a fire.  The best advice would be to contact your local trash or recycling facility.

For our older adults, we need to be vigilant and assist them with safekeeping and disposal throughout the medication process.  As we age, our eyesight gets weaker making it easier for our older Americans to take the wrong dose or take an expired medication.  Also, by not keeping close tabs on their medications, a relative, friend or caregiver may be over at their house for the holidays and venture into the medicine cabinet looking for a quick high.

Should you need more information or additional safety tips, you may contact visit the FDA.gov.


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