Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, surpassing fatal vehicle accidents by nearly 18,000 deaths a year. We can change this statistic!

Safely disposing of your unused or expired drugs can save lives. Here’s an easy way to do that. Drop off unneeded drugs or expired drugs at a local Take-Back event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 28. #DrugTakeBack There are more than 20 event locations in central Arkansas and hundreds statewide. Find a drop-off location – a permanent drop-off site or a Drug Take-Back event location – here. Many law enforcement agencies, along with other facilities, offer 24-hour secure drop boxes for prescription disposal. All drop offs can be made anonymously.

Twice a year, Take-Back events (a.k.a. Operation Medicine Cabinet) are made possible through partnerships with Rotary Clubs, Prevention Resource Centers, the Department of Health and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Law-enforcement agencies throughout Arkansas host drug Take-Back events, collect the drugs and dispose of them safely. Take-Back events also provide information to educate the public about the dangers of unsafe drug disposal or leaving drugs unsecured.

Misusing prescription medications is a serious and widespread problem:

  • 42 percent of teenagers who have abused or misused a prescription drug got them from their parents’ medicine cabinet
  • 64 percent of teenagers (age 12-17) who have abused prescription pain relievers say they got them from friends or relatives #ReverseOpioidEpidemic
  • Our homes are the largest source of drugs that children and young adults misuse. About two-thirds of all prescription drugs taken by someone who was not prescribed them were taken from people’s homes – not stolen from pharmacies or bought illegally off “the street.”

You may have leftover prescription medicines because your doctor stopped or changed a prescription. Medicines may be left over after a serious illness or after the death of a family member. About a third of all prescription medicines sold are not used.

Why safe disposal

It is dangerous to get rid of medicines by throwing them into the trash, pouring down the drain or flushing down the toilet. Here are four important reasons why these are unsafe disposal methods:

  • Pollute our drinking water. Leftover medicines are considered toxic waste because they can be dangerous to people, pets, most aquatic species and the environment. When discarded drugs get into the ground water, our waterways and lakes, they leak into our sources of drinking water. Neither wastewater treatment plants nor septic systems have the capability to destroy drugs that have been flushed down a toilet or sink. Most drugs pass through treatment plants and contaminate our surface, ground and marine waters. Even in small amounts, drugs that reach our environment hurt aquatic life.
  • Cause dangerous exposure when pills are crushed because it puts the handler at risk of drug exposure through skin contact or breathing in the dust. Many drugs are designed to release slowly. Crushing them can release a dangerously high dose. Pill dust can harm family members and pets. Some drugs are especially harmful to children and women of childbearing age.
  • Cause drug abuse and overdose when taken from a medicine cabinet or bedside table by people who shouldn’t have them. The abuse of prescription medicines is the fastest-growing drug problem in the country, and the deadliest. Most abusers of prescriptions, especially teenagers, get the drugs from a friend’s or relative’s home.
  • Cause accidental poisonings or deaths of children, elderly people or pets. Trash disposal is not secure for narcotics and other addictive drugs. Even if you crush drugs before throwing them away, their chemical and biological activity are still present and pollute our environment. Trash disposal that ends up in a landfill only pushes the environmental problem to future generations. The Animal Poison Control Center reports about 50,000 cases annually of pets poisoned by medicines.

Medicines are a special type of hazardous chemical that is not safe in sewage systems or landfills. Never put drugs into unsecured curbside trash cans.

In 2016, 25,289 pounds of unneeded prescription drugs were collected and safely disposed of in Arkansas. The amount of drugs collected increases every year. Unneeded drugs collected at Take-Back locations and events are incinerated at permitted facilities. #TakeBackMeds

The following drugs are returnable to a Take Back event or permanent collection site:

  • Prescription medicines or medicine samples
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Vitamins
  • Pet medicines
  • Medicated ointments and lotions
  • Inhalers
  • Liquid medicines in leak-proof containers

Do not bring these items to a Take-Back event:

  • Needles, lancets or syringes
  • Thermometers
  • Aerosol cans or empty pill containers
  • Bloody or infectious waste
  • Personal care products
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Business waste

Safe storage

 The safest way to store medicines is in a locked medicine cabinet. The cabinet should not be in a room that is subject to steam or other moisture, such as a bathroom or kitchen. Unsecured medicines can be taken by curious children, visitors or teenagers looking for a “buzz.”

Be part of the solution to the drug abuse epidemic and accidental poisonings. Secure your medications and dispose of them safely when you no longer need them.