Keeping prescription drugs out of the wrong hands—and out of the water supply—can pose a challenge even to the average household.
Collection sites in every local community will be accepting expired, unwanted, or unused prescription and over-the-counter medications for safe disposal on Sept. 26 during the 10th National Pharmaceutical Take-Back Day.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sponsors the take-back event, which aims to prevent drug abuse, given the already high statistics, in the country.
"Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem and this is a great opportunity for folks around the country to help reduce the threat. Please clean out your medicine cabinet and make your home safe from drug theft and abuse," stated DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg.
The DEA will accept pills and patches but cannot take needles, mercury thermometers, oxygen containers, chemotherapy or illicit drugs, radioactive substances, or pressurized containers.
Since the first take-back event, the DEA has gathered around 2,400 tons of pills and a total of 4.8 million pounds of drugs. In 2014, Americans turned in 309 tons of drugs at about 5,500 DEA-operated sites and over 4,000 of its state and municipal law enforcement partners.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 44 people die every day from prescription pain medication overdose, while 7,000 receive emergency room treatment for using the drugs in ways other than prescribed or directed.
In addition, millions of Americans take prescription drugs without a medical reason. According to the National Council on Drug Abuse, 52 million who are 12 years old and above have used these drugs non-medically at some point in their lives.
There are ways to properly dispose of expired or unused prescription drugs, including avoiding flushing the medication down the toilet or putting them down the drain.
"If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash," the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends.
1. Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds.
2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
3. Throw the container in your household trash.
4. Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, then dispose of the container.
One may also check with the local pharmacist to see if they will take unused drugs back.