Have expired or unused medication? Here’s how you should get rid of it

Updated: Jul. 26, 2018 at 4:53 PM EDT
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(OHIO) WOIO - Millions of Americans abuse controlled prescription drugs.

A 2015 government survey found that a majority of the abused prescriptions were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said medications that are expired or no longer needed should be disposed of as quickly as possible to help reduce the chance that others accidentally take or intentionally misuse the unneeded medicine.

The FDA says your best choices for disposal of unused or expired medicines are medicine take-back options, disposal in the household trash, and flushing certain potentially dangerous medicines in the toilet.

Each year, the Drug Enforcement Administration holds two National Prescription Drug Take Back Days. On April 28, more than 949,000 pounds of medication were collected at 5,842 sites across the country. According to the DEA, 40,509 pounds were collected in Ohio.

The next Take Back Day is Oct. 27, 2018. If you need to dispose of prescription drugs before then, you can drop them off at a year-round authorized collector in your area.

Click here to find a DEA-authorized prescription drug disposal location near you

If no take-back programs or DEA-registered collectors are available in your area, and there are no specific disposal instructions in the product package insert, the FDA says you can follow these steps to dispose of most medicines in the trash:

Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds;

Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;

Throw the container in your household trash; and

Delete all personal information on the prescription label of empty pill bottles or medicine packaging, then dispose of the container.

The FDA says some medications have specific instructions to immediately flush down the toilet when no longer needed and a take-back option isn't available. If taken by someone other than the person for whom they were prescribed, these medications could be harmful, or even fatal, with just one dose.

Click here for a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing

While flushing medications raises questions about their impact on the environment and contamination of drinking water, the FDA says it believes the known risk of harm to humans from accidental exposure to certain medicines, especially potent opioid medicines, far outweighs any potential risk to humans or the environment from flushing.

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