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Make National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Your Next Healthy Habit

If you’re making a spring cleaning list this month, don’t forget your medicine cabinet. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, on April 28, lets people safely dispose of prescriptions to help keep them out of the hands of kids and out of the water we drink.


An estimated 71,000 children are seen in emergency departments each year because of unintentional medication poisonings. Younger children make up the highest statistic. One out of every 180 2-year-olds receives emergency treatment for medication poisoning each year. More than 80 percent of those visits happened because an unsupervised child found and consumed the medication.

Kids aren’t the only ones at risk when unused or expired medications are in the home. Studies show the majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends who might retrieve those prescriptions from a medicine cabinet.

“More people start down the path of addiction through the misuse of opioid prescription drugs than any other substance. The abuse of these prescription drugs has fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic, which has led to the highest rate of overdose deaths this country has ever seen,” Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson said in a press release.

More than 9 million pounds of prescription drugs have been collected since the DEA began biannual take-back events in 2010. Medications that are turned in are made unusable in some way, typically through incineration.

To take advantage of the take-back day, any member of the family can gather all expired or unused prescriptions and drop them off at an authorized disposal site near you. There may also be a permanent DEA disposal site near you.

If you can’t make it to a disposal site, the DEA offers these tips: Remove the medicine from its original container and mix it with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. Place the mixture in a sealable bag or other container and throw it in the garbage. Some environmental and health departments offer an alternative to coffee grounds and kitty litter to discourage anyone from taking prescriptions out of the garbage: For pills or capsules, add vinegar to the container to dissolve them; for liquids, add table salt or flour.

Proper disposal of medicines not only can save lives, but also can help protect the environment. Prescriptions can enter rivers, lakes or groundwater supplies when poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet and affects the water we drink.