Unused or expired prescription or over-the-counter medications can stay in your medicine cabinet for years. If you have children at home, this can be risky. They may unknowingly take a high-potency pain medication thinking it would help their headache go away, or they may experiment with the prescription medication or offer them to friends.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to take stock of the prescription and over-the-counter medications that you have in your home. Make sure they are properly labeled and out of reach from children. If they are expired or you no longer need them, it’s a good idea to get them out of your house to reduce the risk of prescription drug misuse.
Instead of flushing your prescription medication down the drain, follow these guidelines for proper disposal of prescription and over-the-counter medications from the Office of National Drug Control Policy:
• Take your prescription medications out of their original containers so that there is no indication of what the drugs are.
• Mix the remaining prescription drugs with an undesirable substance so that people who may find the medication may be less tempted to try them if they find them. The drugs can be mixed with such substances as used coffee grounds or cat litter.
• Once the prescription drugs are mixed with an undesirable substance, put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as a sealable bag or Tupperware.
• As for the empty prescription or over-the-counter drug container, be sure to conceal or remove any personal information. Do so by covering it with permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
• Properly dispose of both the mixture and the empty drug containers in the trash.
Instead of disposing of prescription or over-the-counter drugs on your own, your community may offer a drug take-back program or hazardous waste collection. These services collect unused or expired medications at a central location and dispose of them properly, allowing you to just drop off medications instead of going through the process of proper disposal on your own. You can call your local trash and recycling service to find out if there is such a program in your community.
What NOT to Do with Your Prescription Drugs
It may seem like a hassle to properly dispose of your unused or expired prescription drugs, but it is the safest way to make sure the prescription medication doesn’t get misused or abused. Here are some things you should never do with your expired or unused prescription drugs:
• Give them to a friend to use. Even if your friend is in intense pain, the dosage you were prescribed may be too powerful for them, resulting in potentially life-threatening effects. Your friend may also develop an addiction to a prescription medication or have a negative drug interaction that you may be unaware of.
• Unless it says so on the drug’s label, do not flush any medication down the drain.
• Don’t leave them in your home any longer than you need to, and make a point of clearing out your medicine cabinet at least once a year.
If you need help with prescription drug addiction, call 866-323-5609. If you think you or a loved one might have a problem, take the prescription drug addiction quiz.