April 8, 2021

Prescription Medicine Safety Tips

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20.5 million people misused prescription drugs in 2019, including pain relievers, stimulants, tranquilizers and sedatives. You may be surprised to learn that the majority of those surveyed obtained these prescription drugs from their family or friends’ medicine cabinets.

This easy access to prescription drugs increases the potential for misuse, overdose or poisoning, especially if the medication should have been disposed of because it is expired or potentially addictive.

Because of these dangerous and potentially life-threatening consequences of unsafe prescription drug storage and disposal, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) developed the National Take-Back Initiative. One aim of this initiative is to create awareness and educate the public about the potential abuse of medications and their implications. The other is to provide a safe and convenient means of disposing of unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals twice yearly, the Prescription Drug Takeback Days.  

Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and protects the environment.

It’s crucial to be aware of the potential dangers of keeping half-full bottles of old pills, particularly narcotic painkillers, at home. The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2019.

Children, teens, seniors and even pets in your home could be at risk of abuse, addiction or deadly overdose.

The DEA encourages the proper removal of unwanted medications by developing collection sites that allow communities to dispose of prescription drugs appropriately. In the Fall of 2020, there were more than 4,500 collection sites that collected almost 985,392 pounds (or 492.7 tons) of prescription drugs and medical supplies. Despite the global pandemic and fewer collection sites, this was the largest amount of drugs collected by far!


The Role of the Community in Responsible Prescription Drug Disposal

The national initiative also encourages local communities to dispose of expired or leftover prescription drugs responsibly. Many pharmacies collect drugs and take care of disposal, while some communities have collection sites or services that collect the prescription medications for disposal. Other options include mailing the drugs to special disposal facilities or using special drug disposal bags that safely breakdown and hold the chemicals.

Beyond providing options, communities also educate their citizens on the dangers of irresponsible prescription drug disposal. For example, simply mixing unused bottles or leftover medication in the regular trash does not guarantee the drugs will be kept from the wrong hands. People go through the trash every day, and it may end up being consumed by someone who may misuse them, become addicted or, worse, overdose.

If the drugs end up in dumpsites, exposure to the elements may release chemicals that may cause a negative environmental impact, including harm to wildlife and neighboring communities. Flushing pills down the toilet or drain may introduce the prescription chemicals into the waterways, potentially polluting or poisoning potable water supplies.  

At Communicare, we support the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Days. This year, the DEA Diversion Control Division National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 24th, 2021. However, responsible prescription drug disposal should be practiced throughout the year.

Let’s continue the conversation on proper prescription drug disposal and how to safely store your medication so that no one else but you has access to them. Contact us to learn more.