Disposal Option for Unwanted Medications

Last month an article published by the American Chemical Society noted that during 2011 roughly 4 billion prescriptions were written in the United States.  With so many prescriptions generated, you probably have unwanted, unused or outdated medication lurking in your medicine cabinet.  So, how can you safely dispose of these medications?  Do you flush them, throw them away or just keep them in your cabinet forever?  The most responsible choice would be none of these. 
Prescription medications, even in small doses, can be very dangerous if accidentally consumed by humans or animals.  An additional concern is that these unwanted prescription drugs get in the wrong hands, a growing problem in the United States, especially among teenagers.  Medications that are put in the trash can be picked out by drug abusers, leftover medications in your home can be tempting to others, and medications flushed down the toilet can end up in our drinking water.
Here are two safe disposal options.   The most comprehensive program, “Drug Take Back,” is run by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and held two times per year.  Created by the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, it allows all medications, including controlled substances such as pain medications, to be turned in to participating police stations or other public sites for destruction.  If you miss this event, the Iowa Take Away program, located in many participating Iowa retail pharmacies, will take most medications, except controlled substances, and dispose of them in an environmentally safe manner.  If you need to dispose of controlled substances, hold on to them until the next DEA Drug Take Back event.
Since the beginning of DEA’s program in 2010, four events have been held.  More than 1.5 million pounds (774 tons) of medications have been turned in and destroyed.  Please do your part to protect our environment and prevent diversion of medication. Bring your unwanted medications to the next take back event in your area. For additional information on the next DEA event, call 1-800-882-9539. For information about the ongoing Iowa Take Away program, contact your local retail pharmacist or visit the Iowa Pharmacy Association’s website at www.iarx.org/takeaway for more information.
George Papineau, PharmD, RPh
Pharmacy Director
Adair County Health System

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