Six Things to Know About Prescription Take Back Day

Prescription Drugs

Six Things to Know About Prescription Take Back Day

Jennifer Hadley
By Jennifer Hadley
Apr 13, 2021
Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS
Medically Reviewed ByCarina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS
Person throwing out their prescription medication on Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Twice a year, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Results from Take Back Day are impressive. The last event, held in October 2020, included more than 4,500 collection sites and collected nearly 500 tons of prescription medications. In 2021 the first nationwide event will take place on April 24, 2021. Read on for six things to know about Prescription Take Back Day.

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What is Prescription Drug Take-Back Day?

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is designed to prevent prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands. The day is designed to provide a safe, convenient, and anonymous means of disposing of prescription drugs.

Unused medications are considered a public safety issue. They present a risk of misuse, overdose, and accidental poisoning. In addition, unused medications that are flushed down the toilet may also leave trace levels of drugs in rivers, lakes, or community drinking water supplies.

National Prescription Drug Take Back day helps to mitigate these risks by hosting thousands of collection sites, where you can turn over your old, unused, and expired medications.

Where can I dispose of prescription medications safely?

You can dispose of prescription medications safely and anonymously at thousands of sites on National Take Back Day. In addition, there are year-round collection sites in some areas. The DEA maintains a searchable database of year-round disposal sites.

How often does prescription drug take-back day happen annually?

In normal years, Prescription Drug Take Back Day happens twice a year. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event only took place one time.

How can I safely throw away unused medicine at home?

The best way to dispose of medications safely is to take them to a take-back collection site. In addition to the thousands of sites that will be opened for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, there are public disposal locations throughout the nation open all year long.

If there is not a prescription drug disposal location nearby, the DEA recommends looking on the drug label for disposal instructions. If none are given, follow these steps:

  • Remove the medication from its container and mix with kitty litter, used coffee grounds, or other undesirable substances
  • Place the mixture in a sealable container or bag
  • Place in your trash can for trash delivery pickup

Be sure to scratch out, or otherwise remove all identifying information on your prescription drug bottles. You can peel off the label, or use a marker to black out your information. This will protect your private health information and your personal identity.

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Research Before You Flush Medication Down the Sink or Toilet

You should never flush medication down the sink, or toilet unless the drug label specifically instructs you to do so. Some medications that can be very harmful to others instruct you to flush them as soon as they are no longer needed. The FDA maintains a list of medicines recommended for flushing if a Take Back Day event or collection site is unavailable.

Be mindful, however, that some communities prohibit flushing unused medication down the toilet or sink. So be sure to check to see if your community prohibits flushing medication. If you’re unsure if you can flush your medication, you should check with your local health department for guidance.

Proper Disposal of Prescription Medications Can Protect Others

Prescription medications are safe when used by the person they are prescribed to, exactly as prescribed. However, medications taken by people who shouldn’t take them, or medications that are accidentally ingested by children or pets can lead to severe health problems or even death. So, be sure to do your part to protect others by safely disposing of medications you’re no longer using.

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley

Jen Hadley is a freelance writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, who writes extensively about the medical, legal, health care, and consumer products industries. Jen is a regular contributor to RxSaver.

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS., is a pharmacist who earned her PharmD from St. John’s University in Queens, NY. She maintains an active practice, serving as a Board-Certified Pediatric Pharmacotherapy Specialist at a large metropolitan teaching hospital in New York City. Carina has also published in pharmacy journals and works as a consultant reviewing medical articles for publication.

The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

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