Your medicine cabinet can be one of the most dangerous places in your home. Powerful prescription medications can be misused, abused, or lead to accidental poisoning. Even OTC medicines for treating colds and coughs can pose a danger to experimenting teens or curious kids.
There’s no better time to prioritize organizing your medicine cabinet than now.
This month brings DEA National Drug Take-Back Day: a day to safely dispose of unwanted and expired medications.
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
National Drug Take-Back Day helps make it easy to safely get rid of drugs you no longer want or need.
Take-Back Day addresses the crucial public safety and public health risks associated with holding onto unneeded medications or disposing of them improperly. Over the 10-year span of Take Back Day, the DEA has brought in over 6,800 tons of prescription drugs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. saw an increase in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 87,200 Americans dying as a result of a drug overdose in a one-year period (Sept. 1, 2019 to Sept. 1, 2020), the most ever recorded in a 12-month period.
The increase in drug overdose deaths appeared to begin prior to the COVID-19 health emergency, accelerating significantly during the first months of the pandemic.
On October 29, 2022, Drug Take-Back Day offers locations throughout the country where you can dispose of unused and expired medications in a safe, responsible, and convenient way.
From 10am to 2pm, drop off old, unneeded medication at a location near and do your part to help prevent accidental poisoning and intentional abuse.
Here’s how you can make medication safety a priority in your home this month, from now until Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 29, 2022.
Leading up to Drug Take-Back Day, set aside some time this month for the following:
- Organize your medicines: get rid of old, expired, unwanted or unneeded meds
- Secure medications with a locking cap or medication lock box
- Store medicines out of sight and out of reach of children
- Talk to teens about the dangers of prescription drug and OTC medicine abuse
Start the Conversation
Open communication with your children, the adults in their lives, and elderly loved ones about medication safety can have an important and lasting impact on everyone.
Talk to Your Kids
Having open, honest conversations about the risk of prescription drug addiction, abuse, and overdose with children is monumentally important.
In fact, kids who learn about the risks associated with drug use from their parents are up to 50% less likely to experiment with drugs in their teen years than those who don’t.
Don’t stop with prescription drug safety.
Be sure your kids know the dangers of abusing cough syrup and other OTC medications, as well.
Talk to Adults in Your Kids' Lives
If your children spend time at another adult’s house — another parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or friend — you’ll want to talk to them about the dangers of leaving medications within reach of curious hands.
Tell them about Take-Back Day and ask that they keep their medications safely stored and out of sight so that your children won’t be faced with temptation.
Talk to Elderly Family Members
Many people assume that the older adults in their family are managing medications properly but that’s not always the case.
Seniors take more medication than any other U.S. group, with an increased risk of drug mix-ups, interactions, and harmful side effects.
Check-in with older family members and make sure that their medications are being properly managed.
Help them go through their medications and prepare for Take-Back Day, making sure that they’re clear on dosage as well as side effects and interactions issues they might expect from the medications they take. Then help protect them from the risk of prescription theft by making sure their medication is stored properly.
Get the Word Out
Spread the word about Drug Take-Back Day and the importance of proper medication disposal.
Head to the DEA National Prescription Take Back Day Partnership Toolbox for promotional items like posters, pamphlets, and other printable materials that you can display in the workplace or public spaces you frequent.
You can also find social media graphics to add to your profiles or share out to your followers.
The more people who know the benefits of properly disposing of unneeded or expired medications, the less risk of dangerous medications ending up in the wrong hands.
Prepare Medication for Disposal
While tackling a project like cleaning out the medicine cabinet can seem daunting, it can be easily broken down into four steps:
Gather all your medications in one place. Separate medicine that you still need from expired, unwanted, or unneeded medications.
Maintain your privacy by removing all labels with identifying information from bottles.
Locate the Drug Take-Back event in your community. Immediately drop off meds or secure them in a locked medicine box until you can.
Tip: If you can’t make it out on Drug Take-Back Day, there are other ways to safely dispose of unwanted medications
- Many states have year-round/permanent drug take-back programs, with on-site drug disposal boxes, mail-back programs, or local medication take-back events held at different times throughout the year.
- If you have no choice but to throw meds away at home, the FDA recommends mixing medication with something unpalatable — like kitty litter or coffee grounds — in a sealed plastic bag before disposing in the trash.
- Lock up medications that you are still using, then store them out of reach and out of sight.
Take your cue from Drug Take-Back Day and use this time to ensure that your family is using medication safely, for spreading the word about proper medication disposal, and for safely getting rid of drugs that you no longer want or need.
This blog post was updated on Oct. 17, 2022, with updated information and to ensure its contents continue to be relevant and accurate.