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How Do You Legally Dispose of Prescription Drugs?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

This Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

While the name may sound a bit silly, the nationwide event aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible way for people to legally dispose of prescription medication that is either expired or unwanted, according to the Office of Diversion Control.

Although most people are aware of the dangers of medication abuse, not everyone knows that improperly disposing of drugs can harm the environment.

What's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day?

The Eighth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will be held on Saturday, April 26, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Several collection sites are located at local police departments and you can search for a location near you by visiting the Office of Diversion Control's website.

So far, this annual event has been fairly successful. In 2011, nearly 200 tons of expired or unwanted prescription or over-the-counter medication was properly disposed of. National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is intended to limit access to unused prescription drugs and alert the public to the health hazards associated with improper drug disposal.

How to Dispose of Drugs

If you're unable to make it to a collection center for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, there are legal methods you can employ to safely get rid of your drugs.

  • Check with your state's environmental agency. Some states, like New York, have laws that require a government agency to develop and implement a public information program on how to properly dispose drugs. Even if there's no statute, your state's environmental agency probably has tips on its website.
  • Flush them. Some drugs can be flushed down the toilet without environmental repercussions. The FDA has compiled a list of drugs that can be flushed, but some medications may have specific directions indicating that they can be flushed.
  • Household disposal. According to the EPA, you can legally dispose of prescriptions drugs by following certain guidelines. First, remove the drugs from their original containers and mix the drugs with undesirable substances, like cat litter. Second, put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid and remove all personal information from your drug container. After those steps are taken, you can throw everything in the trash.

Although you can dispose of drugs at home, it's best to get rid of them at a collection site through the National Take-Back Initiative -- ensuring they don't fall into the wrong hands.

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