Opinion: How to safely clean your medicine cabinet | Opinion

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Atheer Kaddis


Twice a year, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) holds a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, encouraging people to safely rid their homes of expired and unneeded medications. The next drop date, April 30, will provide plenty of places for people to drop off medications for safe disposal. Drop-off locations can be found on the DEA’s website for National Prescription Drug Pickup Day.

While these events are important, it is equally important to think about the safe disposal of these medications throughout the year. Proper disposal of medications can prevent medication abuse and limit unauthorized access to opioids.

According to the Michigan-Opioid Prescribe Engagement Network, every 10 minutes a child goes to the emergency room for drug poisoning, and three in five teens say it’s easy to get prescription painkillers from the medicine cabinet. their parents.

Disposable drugs

Over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be dangerous when used incorrectly. When deciding which medications to discard, look for expired medications, unused or leftover prescription medications, and topical medications like prescription creams and patches.

Safety tips

Although many people think that simply flushing medications or throwing prescriptions in the trash is an effective method of disposal, they would be surprised to find that this approach can be dangerous to themselves or others. This is why formal medication take-back events are useful. The organizations that organize these events are responsible for the safe disposal of medicines, without harming the environment or the community.

  • Find a collection site. There are many drop-off events around National Medication Take-Back Day. Check local information sources and community organizations to find a nearby and convenient location. There are also sites that accept drug drop-offs year-round, including pharmacies. Go to dea.gov or fda.gov to find these sites.
  • Get rid of drugs at home. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests several ways to safely empty the medicine cabinet:
  • Remove prescriptions from their original containers.
  • Mix medicine with a harmful substance like kitty litter or coffee grounds. This helps disguise them from those who might be looking for drugs in the trash.
  • Place them in an impermeable, unidentifiable container, such as empty cans or resealable bags.
  • For privacy protection, cover or strike out any personally identifiable information on original medication containers before discarding.

Some medications can be flushed down the toilet, but only if the medication label gives specific instructions for doing so. The FDA website (fda.gov) also has a list of drugs that can be flushed out.

Safe disposal of unused or expired medication protects friends, family and the environment. Take advantage of local drug recovery events and collection sites and remember these tips throughout the year.

About the Authors: James D. Grant, MD, is Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Atheer Kaddis is Vice President of Pharmacy Services at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.