Safely Disposing Medications - A Quick Guide | Family Health

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A Quick Guide to Safe Medication Disposal

Unused prescription drugs can find their way into the wrong hands. This can lead to drug abuse, addiction or even overdose.

More than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs, and most of these medications were from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet1.


Disposing of Prescription Drugs

Do not share medicine that wasn’t prescribed for you. What’s safe for you could be harmful to someone else. So, if it’s no longer useful or past the shelf date, you should throw it away.


How to discard unused prescription medication:

  • Look for drug take back programs in your community. These are drop boxes that accept your unused prescriptions for safe disposal. You can search locations here. You can also call your local police department to ask about drug take back programs.
  • In addition, “Drug Take Back Days” (in April and October) encourage safe medication disposal. For additional information and to find a collection site, visit here.
  • You can also throw prescription drugs in your household trash. It’s a good idea to remove them from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance like cat litter, dirt, or coffee grounds. Then place the mixture in a container to prevent leaking. Remove or scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label.
  • You can also flush some prescription drugs down the sink or toilet. (Check out FDA’s list of medicine recommendation for disposal here).


Do not give your medicine to friends or family. If you’re unsure about proper medication disposal, you can always talk to your pharmacist.


Additional Drug Safety Tips

Supportive parenting can also lower the risk of drug use in children and young adults. It’s important to talk with your kids about the risks of substance abuse.


Try using clear, calm communication with you kids. This will help encourage good behavior and help you catch potential problems early.


Give your kids regular positive reinforcement to help them feel good about themselves and build their confidence. Positive parenting can help in working through problems and finding solutions. This also helps them learn skills that are valuable as adults.


Finally, regularly check-in with your children and make it a point to know their friends.


If you think a family member may have a substance disorder, visit Gateway Health’s substance use disorders center to find local services and treatment options.



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