Prescription drugs that have expired or are no longer needed should be disposed of safely. Here’s how and why.

Why safe disposal

It is dangerous to get rid of medicines by throwing them into the trash, pouring down the drain or flushing them in the toilet for three important reasons. These unsafe disposal methods can:

  • Pollute our drinking water. Leftover medicines are toxic waste because they can be dangerous to people, pets and the environment. When discarded drugs get into the ground water, or our waterways and lakes, they leak into our sources of drinking water. Wastewater treatment facilities are not capable of destroying drugs that have been flushed down a toilet or sink. Most drugs pass through treatment plants and contaminate our surface, ground and marine waters. Crushing pills is dangerous 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 endanger other family members and pets. Some drugs are especially harmful to children and women of childbearing age.
  • Cause drug abuse when found or 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 most deadly. Most (66 %) abusers of prescriptions, including teenagers, get the drugs from a friend’s or relative’s home. About 42 percent of teenagers report they have misused or abused a prescription drug from their parents’ medicine cabinet.
  • Cause accidental poisonings of children, elderly people or pets. Trash disposal is not secure for narcotics and other addictive drugs. Even if you crush drugs before throwing away, their chemical and biological activity is still present and they can 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.

How to dispose of unneeded medicines

Medicine take-back programs are the only secure and environmentally safe way to dispose of unneeded or expired drugs. Arkansas has many permanent drop-off locations. Additionally, Arkansas has two annual statewide Take-Back Events each spring and fall. Visit this website and click on Collection Sites to find a drop-off location near you or the next Take-Back event.

The next Arkansas Take Back event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 28, at numerous locations statewide.

Last year in Arkansas, 25,289 pounds of unneeded prescription drugs were collected and safely disposed of. The events provide safe, secure and no-cost disposal as well as education to encourage Arkansans to use safe disposal of their unneeded drugs. Unneeded drugs dropped off at “take back” locations and events are incinerated at permitted facilities.

The following drugs are returnable to a Take Back event or permanent Take-Back collection site: prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, pet medicines, medicated ointments and lotions, inhalers, liquid medicines in leak-proof containers and medicine samples.

Do not bring these items to a Take Back event: needles, lancets, syringes, thermometers, aerosol cans, empty containers, bloody or infectious waste, personal care products, hydrogen peroxide or business waste.

You may have leftover prescription medicines because your doctor stopped or changed a prescription. You may have large amounts of medicines leftover after a serious illness or after the death of a family member. About a third of all prescription medicines sold go unused. Check your medicine cabinet and bring unneeded drugs to the Oct. 28 Take Back Event.

The safest way to store medicines is in a locked medicine cabinet in a room that is not subject to steam or other moisture. Unsecured medicines allow unauthorized access by curious children, visitors or teenagers looking for a “buzz.” Unsecured storage in your home can contribute to the epidemic of medicine abuse and accidental poisonings.

Fliers for the Oct. 28 Take Back event are available at this website. We urge you to print out a few and share with family, friends and co-workers.