National Prescription Drug Take Back Day will be held on April 27th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This day encourages people to dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications in a convenient, safe and responsible way. The last Take Back Day disposed of over 900,000 pounds of unused or expired prescription drug medications. Imagine how many drugs did not make it into our waterways or into the hands of curious teens!
Reasons for Disposing Prescription Drugs
National Take Back Day draws attention to the importance of discarding unused or expired prescription medications. This day reminds people to take responsibility for the medications they have in their homes so that they do not fall into the wrong hands.
Taking prescription drugs in a way that wasn’t recommended by a doctor is dangerous and considered drug abuse. It is also illegal. The most common drugs that are abused are opioids, stimulants and central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Keeping unused or expired prescription drugs out of the home is one of the best things you can do to keep your family and others safe.
Think that prescription drug addiction won’t affect you or your family? Think again. In a recent survey, one out of every seven teens admitted to taking a prescription drug without a doctor’s permission. When working with families, our Pasadena drug treatment center often learns that the drugs are found in the medicine cabinets of friends and family.
So, why do people abuse prescription drugs in the first place? These substances are attractive because people think they can:
- Have fun
- Lose weight
- Relax and unwind
- Have more energy
- Stay up through the night
- Study more effectively
- Enhance the effects of other drugs
Bottom line: Check your medicine cabinet and drawers on a regular basis and discard of medications you no longer need or use. We explain the proper way to do this below.
California Disposal Sites Mostly Accept Controlled Substances
In California, there are a growing number of disposal sites that can be used for disposing prescription drugs year-round. However, options are limited based on the types of medications you want to dispose. Also, because there is no funding for these programs, there is no consistency among take back sites. It’s really up to the places that want to offer them and have the resources to do so.
At the time, most collection sites in Pasadena accept controlled drugs, or drugs that are managed by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). These drugs are broken down into schedules:
- Schedule I. High abuse potential, no medical use, unsafe. Includes heroin, marijuana and LSD.
- Schedule II. High abuse potential, medical use, severe addiction risk. Includes morphine and methadone.
- Schedule III. Lower abuse potential, medical use, moderate or low risk for addiction. Includes codeine, hydrocodone with aspirin and anabolic steroids.
- Schedule IV. Low abuse potential, medical use, limited risk for dependency. Includes Valium and Xanax.
- Schedule V. Low abuse potential, medical use, limited risk for dependency. Includes cough medicines and codeine.
Disposal Programs in CA are Expected to Rise
The good news is that more communities in California are adopting online ordinances to operate drug collection programs. These programs are not up and running yet, but hopefully will be in the near future.
To find a place to dispose of your unwanted prescription medications, start with a quick search on DontRushtoFlush.org, a program designed and implemented by the California Product Stewardship Council. You can search by California zip code and find a place near you.
However, pay attention to the types of medications the disposal centers accept. Not all places accept non-controlled prescription drugs, which are medications used to treat high blood pressure, diabetes and bacterial infections. Also, many will not accept chemotherapy drugs or hypodermic needles.
If you don’t have luck finding a disposal center in your area, try a local Walgreens, as more than 50 stores in the state have bins available outdoors to collect controlled drugs and over the counter medications - no sharps (needles). These bins should come up in your search on Don’t Rush to Flush, though.
What’s Wrong with Flushing Medications?
You might be wondering what the big deal is with flushing prescription drugs. The main reasons why this is not a good practice are:
- It damages the environment. Eventually, medicine flushed down the toilet will end up in the water supplies, affecting drinking water and freshwater habitats. Already, fish have tested positive for birth control pills, antidepressants, sedatives, painkillers, antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. These drugs can disrupt reproductive patterns and development.
- It may increase the risk for cancer. The same drugs that are affecting fish and wildlife are also found in humans. Some experts believe that increased levels of estrogen while in the womb can raise the risk for testicular cancer.
- It may lead to antibiotic resistance. There have been reports of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in the waterways. Exposure to antibiotics in our water may make it harder to treat infections later on.
Alternative Ways to Safely Dispose of Medications
If you cannot find take back programs or authorized collection sites in your community, there are alternative ways to dispose your medication. The FDA recommends following these steps:
- Combine all of your medications but do not crush them.
- Mix the medications in an inedible substance like kitty litter. You want to make them unattractive to anyone who would want them.
- Place this mixture in a sealed container or sealed bag.
- Throw the container in your household trash.
Key Takeaways for National Take Back Day
Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in our country. More than 54 million people over the age of 12 have used prescription meds for nonmedical reasons. One of the most responsible things we can do as a society is also the simplest: throw away unused or expired prescription medications.
Ideally, you should take the substances to a collection site so they can be safely discarded. However, if this is not available to you, follow the tips above and toss the unused medicine into the trash. In the future, we look forward to seeing more collection sites in Pasadena and the surrounding areas.
If you or someone you know needs drug detox in California for prescription drug abuse, contact Pax House Recovery today. We have individualized recovery programs for those who abuse opioids, stimulants or depressants.