Why You Should Properly Dispose of Prescription Medications


medication disposal

Why You Should Properly Dispose of Prescription Medications

Friday, April 15th, 2022

If you’ve ever been prescribed medication, you know there are often times when you have leftover pills. Whether your prescription changed, you no longer needed to take the medication, or you misplaced the bottle only to find it a few weeks later, having unused drugs in your home can be unsafe and even deadly. Let’s look at when and how you should properly dispose of old prescriptions.

The Dangers of Keeping Unused Medication

It can be tempting to keep old prescriptions in the home out of concern that you may need them again in the future. This practice, though, can have negative health effects for you and others in your home. One of the first dangers of keeping these comes from taking medication improperly. When prescribing anything, a medical professional decides the proper dosage based on your current health situation. Taking any medication outside of the recommendation of your provider can have serious consequences for your health. If you ever stop taking medication and feel like you should start taking it again, always consult with your doctor first. 

Prescriptions, like other things approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, also have an expiration date. Choosing to consume anything past its expiration date can result in severe consequences. When formulated, medication has a specific balance of ingredients to make it safe and effective. Taking this outside of the window of its expiration date puts you at risk because these are no longer considered safe. Just like produce can grow bacteria and mold, prescription medications can also experience chemical changes that reduce their effectiveness and change their method of action.

One of the most dangerous consequences of not disposing of unused medication, though, is the potential that others in your household will access your prescription. Teens and young adults may be tempted to try a medication that is left unattended, and this can have deadly consequences. Because prescribers take into consideration a person’s weight, existing conditions, and other health-related factors, it is incredibly unsafe for another person to take something not prescribed to them. This is especially true for younger people. For example, if a teen decided to take a medication meant to lower blood pressure without knowing what it was for, they could experience severe heart issues that may require hospitalization. Properly disposing of medication helps lower the risk of this falling into the hands of someone who could be harmed by it. 

How to Properly Dispose of Medication

April 30th is National Drug Take Back Day

During the month of April, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration highlights these dangers and provides an opportunity for people to dispose of unused or expired medications. Specifically, April 30, 2022 is National Drug Take Back Day. This day allows individuals to bring old medications to a designated drop-off point where they will be properly disposed of. To find a drop-off location near you, you can visit the DEA’s website.

Return Drugs to the Pharmacy

Outside of this specific date, the FDA outlines ways you can safely remove these medications from your home. Pharmacies often offer a year-round drug take-back program where you can dispose of unused medicine. 

Some Medications Can Be Flushed

If there is not a location near you, the FDA has an approved flush list of medications that can be flushed down the toilet. Medications not included on that list should not be flushed; choosing to flush these drugs can be dangerous for sewage/septic systems and the water system near your home. 

Disposing of Medications in the Trash

If your prescription is not on the flush list, the FDA also offers guidelines for properly disposing of the medicine in your trash at home. All of these guidelines can be found on the FDA’s website

Prescription Drug Abuse Support

Keeping unused medications around your home contributes to the risk that teens and adolescents will begin abusing prescription drugs, resulting in a substance use disorder. It’s important to monitor any medication you have in the home and, if possible, keep any pills in a locked cabinet to prevent teens from accessing them. 

If you discover your teen has been taking medications not prescribed to them or at higher doses than prescribed, this could be indicative of a substance use disorder. Early intervention is key to the successful treatment of substance abuse, but we know those are not easy conversations to have. 

At R&A Therapeutic Partners, we can help with all stages of this process. We can facilitate an intervention conversation to help your child begin to recognize the problem they are facing. We also provide substance abuse evaluations, psychotherapy, and case management services to provide your teen with the greatest chances for a successful recovery. If you need help addressing a potential addiction, contact our team today. 

At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.

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