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How to Dispose of Unused Medications

The most common reason medications go unused is due to expiration. This may not surprise you, but it may be shocking to learn that a whopping 85% of us do not know how to properly dispose of unused or expired medications, according to the National Institutes of Health.

On average, 200 million prescriptions go unused in the United States. Whether these medications are left out in the open or stored securely, they do present a real danger to anyone with access to them. Some of the dangers of keeping unused or expired medications include:

  1. Drug interactions: Storing unused medications alongside other drugs could lead to unintentional drug interactions, which can have harmful effects on your health.
  2. Reduced effectiveness: Over time, medications lose their potency and may not work as intended, putting your health at risk.
  3. Accidental ingestion: Keeping unused or expired medications around increases the risk of accidental ingestion, especially by children or pets who may mistake them for something else.

If you have unused or expired medications in your home, here are the proper ways to dispose of them:

  • Take-back programs: Check if your local pharmacy, hospital, or community center offers medication take-back programs, where you can safely drop off your unused medications.
  • DEA-authorized collection sites: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days and maintains a list of authorized collection sites. Find one near you and drop off your medications hassle-free.
  • Mix with undesirable substances: Render your medications unusable by mixing them with used coffee grounds, kitty litter, or other undesirable substances before sealing them in a plastic bag and throwing them in the trash.
  • Flush only when necessary: Some medications, especially controlled substances or those with specific instructions, may need to be flushed down the toilet. Check the FDA's website or the medication's label for specific flushing instructions.

Remember, it's always wise to remove any personal information from medication packaging before disposal. If you have any doubts or questions about proper disposal methods for specific medications, consult your pharmacist or healthcare provider.

By disposing of your unused medications safely, you're not only decluttering your space but also contributing to a safer environment for everyone.

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