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How To Safely Get Rid Of Those Old Pills In Your Medicine Cabinet

pill bottle

Ever wondered what to do with that expired bottle of prescription pills sitting in your medicine cabinet? This Saturday, the DEA has a solution for you to get rid it of safely.

April 27 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, where people can drop off extra, expired or otherwise no-longer-needed prescription and over-the-counter medications for safe disposal. This day is something the DEA created mainly for public safety, says Amber Etzel, adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy.

"There was a drug disposal act that was created in 2010 with different safety measures to make sure the public is very well prepared (to dispose of prescription medication)," she says.

Any type of prescription or over-the-counter drug will be accepted, she says, and it is recommended that you only take back items of your own or someone in your household.

"The only thing that cannot be taken to these events are any kind of devices that contain a needle, such as an insulin syringe," Etzel explains. "Inhalers also cannot be taken back, just because of the flammability risk, and any kind of illicit drugs are not able to be taken back."

All "take backs" are accepted anonymously.

So why not just save yourself the hassle and throw such drugs away in the trash or flush them down the toilet?

"There is a list on the FDA's website (PDF) about what drugs can be flushed," says Etzel. "So some medications can be flushed, you just want to make sure that you look into that before you do it so that the water does not become contaminated with anything."

Likewise, throwing medication away in the trash poses safety concerns, too.

"There's a lot of safety risks with that," Etzel says. "If the trash bag leaks, or something happens in the landfill, different animals could get into it or even children, so it's really important to have safe disposal methods so that we don't have the risk of anyone getting harmed by these medications."

This includes the drugs falling into the wrong hands. The last Take Back Day in October 2018 saw 5,839 collection sites with 914,236 lbs. of drugs collected.

If you can't make the Saturday event, you still have options to dispose of medication safely. "The best thing to do is find a standing box which are conveniently located in a lot of different pharmacies, as well as some hospitals," says Etzel. You can also talk to your pharmacist. "They're the most accessible person for a patient and they would very happily look up where you would be able to go to take those medications."

To find a location near you for Saturday or any time, simply enter your zip code on the Take Back Day website.

Jennifer Merritt brings 15 years of "tra-digital" journalism experience to WVXU, having served in various digital roles for such legacy publications as InStyle and Parade, as well as start-ups like Levo League and iVillage. She helped these outlets earn several awards, including MIN's 2015 Digital Team of the Year. She graduated from Rutgers University with a journalism major and English minor and has continued her education with professional development classes through the Poynter Institute, Columbia University and PMJA. Before moving to Cincinnati from New York in 2016, she vowed her son would always call it "soda" and not "pop." She has so far been successful in this endeavor.