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Do You Know What to Do with Expired Prescriptions?

prescriptiondrugsantibioticsHealth & Wellness • 3 min read • Oct 1, 2014 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith


Every time you clean out your bathroom, you may have the frustration of organizing old prescription bottles that have piled up in the medicine cabinet over the years. Similar to dead batteries and burned out light bulbs, you know these prescriptions aren’t usable anymore, but you also can’t just throw them away. With a newly implemented program from the DEA, you will now be able to get rid of outdated, unused prescriptions without the worry of causing a public health hazard. Here’s a closer look at what you need to know about proper prescription drug disposal to keep your family safe.

Potential problems with unused prescription drugs

When prescription drugs are just sitting in your medicine cabinet, there is potential for accidental ingestion or prescription drug abuse in the case of painkillers, sedatives, and muscle relaxers. To give you some perspective about the latter issue, prescription drug abuse accounts for more drug use than cocaine, heroin, LSD, and ecstasy combined. This puts prescription drugs second only to marijuana when it comes to recreational use. Therefore, keeping old bottles of these medications around after you don’t need them anymore could be contributing to the prescription drug abuse epidemic.

Another interesting trend that is a threat to public health is antibiotic overuse. When you are prescribed antibiotics, you should take the whole course of the prescription, even if symptoms subside while you still have medication left. Unfortunately, many people do not follow these guidelines and save prescription antibiotics for the next time they get sick. If antibiotics are taken when a bacterial infection is not present, a person may build up resistance to these drugs, making it harder to treat an actual infection later on.

Drug Disposal Act

The Drug Disposal Act was passed in 2010, and it gave the DEA authority to create a program for the safe disposal of prescription drugs. With this program in place, Americans will now be able to drop off old prescriptions at pharmacies, police stations, hospitals, and other public facilities. They also have the option of picking up envelopes to mail pills to authorized collectors where they will be handled safely. These convenient disposal programs will begin in early October and be a readily available solution for people around the country.

Improper disposal methods


It’s easy to think that tossing an old bottle of medicine in the trash or flushing pills down the toilet is harmless, but the damage this causes is rather significant. Throwing away old medication could still lead to pills winding up in the wrong hands. Medicine may also break down in a landfill and seep into the soil. Flushing medications has more immediate consequences, as prescription drugs can contaminate the water supply. Water treatment facilities have no measures to filter these drugs out of the water; so harmful contaminants can linger in water that comes out of your faucet.

If you have properly disposed of your prescription medication, and come down with a bug that requires more than a cup of tea, remember you can rely on MeMD for online medical consultations from licensed physicians. If you are prescribed medication, remember to follow the tips above for proper use and disposal!

Reach the World. Giving Made Easy with Impact.

Kat Smith