Why NOT to Take Unused Prescription Drugs

unused prescription drugs

It is recommended that people dispose of their unused prescription drugs rather than hold on to them. Why is this? Well, these drugs can be accidentally ingested or misused according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

Most people will keep their unused drugs because they believe that they might be able to use them later. Others keep them because they aren’t willing to put in the effort for a safe disposal. However, it is particular dangerous to keep drugs, like pain killers, around because they might be used recreationally by other individuals – like teenagers. Also, some people self-medicate for a new illness that hasn’t even been prescribed to them yet.

How Prescription Drugs Are Misused

For example, unused prescription drugs have the potential of being brought to “pill parties”, which basically includes a group of individuals who pool their medications together prior to taking them. With opioids, it isn’t uncommon for just a single tablet to cause death in a patient who is slightly intoxicated or under the influence of a different sedative. These are just a few of the many considerations to think about with unused prescriptions.

Drug Disposal Guidelines

It is sensible to dispose of medications that are expired or unneeded. However, it seems that the guidance on doing this is lacking. Let’s take a look at some guidelines that you can follow to help dispose of unneeded or expired medications.

Both the White House of National Drug Control Policy and the FDA have developed a few guidelines to keep in mind when disposing of expired drugs:

  • Be sure to follow the instructions of disposal that are labelled on the prescription drug. Make sure that you never flush a medicine down the toilet or the sink unless the disposal information specifically instructs you to do this.
  • Try to take advantage of drug take-back programs within the community. These are basically designed for individuals who would like to bring their unused drugs for a specific area for proper disposal. If you don’t know how to find one, simply call your city’s household trash and recycling service to see if that are offering a drug take-back program.
  • If the drugs don’t container an instruction label for disposal, and there isn’t a take-back program in your area, then follow these simple steps: remove the drugs from their original container and then mix them into an undesirable substance (like kitty litter or coffee grounds). This will help make the drug appear less appealing to both pets and children, or others who might intentionally go through your trash trying to find drugs. Place the mixture into a bag that is sealable, or an empty can.

From here, simply place that bag into a large garbage back and put it with the rest of your household garbage. By following these simple steps, you will ensure that your unused drugs get thrown away properly. Proper disposal of unused drugs is not only important for the safety of your pets, but also critical to the safety of small children and teenagers.


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