National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 24, 2021

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 24, 2021, from 10 AM to 2 PM. The biannual event provides a safe, convenient, and responsible way to dispose of unused prescription drugs. The event also helps educate the public about the potential abuse of prescription medications and why taking them back is essential.

DEA Take Back Day Image

Anyone with access to a drop-off location can get rid of unused medicines in a free, anonymous, and easy way. Take Back Day collection sites will accept OTC medicines, medicated lotions/ointments, pills in any packaging, and even pet medications.

Inhalers, needles, IV bags, medical waste, and blood sugar equipment are not accepted and should be disposed of properly in medical waste containers. Illegal drugs should also not be brought to a Take Back collection site.

Every event collects almost a million pounds of unwanted, unused, or expired medications. The most recent event in October 2020 yielded 492.7 tons (985,392 lbs.) across over 4,500 collection sites.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DEA National Prescription Drug Take Back Day collection sites may be limited, so check with your collection site for information about protocols and steps to take.

 
Can’t You Just Flush Medicine Down the Toilet?

Some medications may be flushed when Take Back Day or permanent Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locations are not available. These medications may be especially harmful — or fatal — to children and pets.

Remember to only flush medicines on the “flush list” if a take-back option is not readily available.

Does Flushing Medication Pose a Risk to the Environment?

FDA environmental authorities state most medicines in water result from elimination from the body through urine or feces. The FDA and EPA also state there has been no indication of environmental effects due to flushing medications.

The FDA adds that the risk to humans from accidental exposure to these potent medications far outweighs the environmental risk based on available data.

Can I throw medicine in the trash?

Your pharmacist can provide you with instructions regarding medicine disposal. It’s not ideal, but there are certain precautions that you can take for many medications to be tossed in the trash. For OTC medicines, look inside the packaging for special disposal instructions.

Inhalers can be dangerous if punctured or thrown into a fire or incinerator. To properly dispose of these products and follow local laws, contact your trash and recycling facility.

If no authorized collection sites are available, and no Take Back Days are scheduled in your area, you can follow these steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

1. Take medicines out of their original container, and do not crush or decapsulate.

2. Place them in a sealed container, such as a zippered plastic bag, and mix with a substance such as dirt/mud, used coffee grounds, or cat litter. Mix them up well and ensure the bag is sealed to prevent it from leaking into the trash, then throw the bag away.

3. When disposing of empty prescription bottles or packaging, do so separately, and black out any personal information, including the prescription number, doctor, dates, and number of refills.

Why use a Take Back Day event instead of disposing at home?

These events do a lot to rid prescription drugs in a responsible, environmentally friendly manner. Tens of millions of pounds of drugs have been disposed of over the past 20 years.

The purpose of National Take Back Days is to give people a day, time, and place to just bring the unused medications and be done with it. Not everyone has access to proper disposal methods, so this provides an excellent opportunity to do the right thing.

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 6.4 million Americans abused controlled prescription drugs. Many of these drugs were found in a friend or family member’s medicine cabinet. That’s why National Drug Take Back Day urges the proper disposal of prescription drugs — and, hopefully, saves lives.

If you or someone you know is facing mental and/or substance abuse disorders, help is available. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service (SAMHSA) Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, which is free and confidential, will help to find resources in your area.

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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