How to Dispose of Unused Medication


ORLANDO. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — In a recent study it was found that more than half of patients prescribed opioids received more than what they need. Sixty-one percent of these patients say they will save the extra pills for future use. With painkiller overdoses on the rise, here’s details on ways you can safely dispose of your leftover medication to keep them out of the hands of young children or adults looking to get high.

Ever given Tylenol to a friend who asked for it? How about prescription painkillers? In a survey done by Johns Hopkins, it was found that one in five people shared their leftover medication with another person. Even though sharing over the counter pain relievers, such as Tylenol, is fine, sharing opioid painkillers with someone who doesn’t have a prescription can have deadly consequences.

Drug overdose, the majority of which involves opioids, was the leading cause of injury death among people between 25 and 64 in 2014. Instead, you can turn over the unused meds to a “take back” program at pharmacies or police departments. But fewer than seven percent of people with unused meds actually did this.

There’s no problem with throwing away pills in the trash, but make sure to mix them in something inedible like coffee grounds, dirt or kitty litter and seal them in a plastic bag.

Also, make sure to scratch out your personal information from empty pill bottles before throwing them out.

More than half the people in the survey said that they were not given any information on proper disposal of leftover medication. When given a prescription, be sure to ask your physician for the best ways to store or dispose of the unused medication.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

REPORT #2370

BACKGROUND: In the midst of an epidemic of prescription painkiller addiction and overdose deaths, a new survey suggests that more than half of patients prescribed opioids have leftover pills. Many save them to use later and some even share them with other people. Even though sharing over the counter painkillers, such as Tylenol, is fine; sharing opioid painkillers can have deadly consequences. Over the past decade, there has been a sharp increase in the rates of prescription painkiller addiction and overdose deaths. Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2014 among people between the ages of 25 and 64. Prolonged use of these medications can lead to addiction, putting people at much higher risk for overdose and raising the risk of heroin use since it is cheaper, worsening the heroin epidemic.


JOHNS HOPKINS SURVEY: The Johns Hopkins Center for Mental Health, the Addiction Policy Research, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy surveyed a national sample of 1,032 U.S. adults who had used prescription painkillers in the previous year. Among 592 respondents who were no longer using prescription pain relievers at the time of survey, 60.6% reported having leftover pills and said they had kept them for future use rather than disposing of them. Among all respondents, one in five reported they’d shared their medication with another person. Nearly 14% said they were likely to share their prescription painkillers with a family member, and nearly 8% said they would share with a close friend. Fewer than 10% said they kept their opioid pain medication in a locked location. Nearly half said they weren’t given information on safe storage or proper disposal of leftover medication, and more than 69% of those who got instructions said they had received information about turning over the remaining medication to a pharmacist or a “take back” program, but few actually did.


DISPOSAL IN HOUSEHOLD TRASH: If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, one can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

  1. Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds;
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;
  3. Throw the container in your household trash;
  4. Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, and then dispose the container.


* For More Information, Contact:

DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center

1-800-882-9539 or to find a public disposal location in your area, go to:

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