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Don’t Just Throw That Away!

Dispose of unwanted medications safely on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The family medicine cabinet can be a strange place, full of old cough drops, forgotten antacids, an antique thermometer or two, and a growing cache of unused and unwanted prescription medications. But while several of those can—and should—just be thrown into the garbage bin, you have to be careful as to how you dispose of those prescription meds, which can be harmful and dangerous if they wind up in the wrong hands.

“When you throw them in the trash, they can be retrieved by other people, they can be abused and they can be illegally sold,” says SMH Pharmacist Dominic Smith. “And when prescription medications are flushed, they can pose an environmental risk.”

So if they can’t be chucked in the garbage and they can’t be flushed down the commode, what do you do with them?

Enter the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, a national program organized by the Drug Enforcement Agency, providing everyone with old, unused, unwanted or even illicit prescription drugs an opportunity to safely and anonymously dispose of them.

“And by properly disposing of these medications,” Smith says, “you help fight abuse in our community and help save lives.”

How Does National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Work?

Importantly, not everything can be disposed of in the drop boxes.

Pills, tablets, and gel capsules are fine, as are any empty orange or green prescription pill bottles that may have slowly accumulated. You can even dispose of vaping products in the drop box.

However, liquid medications, needles and other sharp objects are not to be disposed of in the receptacle.

The idea is simple. One or two days out of the year, special drop boxes are available in communities across the nation, in establishments like CVS and Walgreens and even local sheriff’s offices. And throughout the day, any and all community members are invited to use these bins with no questions asked.

“It’s purely about safety,” says Smith. “No cops should be asking your name or what you’re dropping off.”

Because the goal, he says, is simply to get these drugs off the street and prevent them from being abused in the community, not to make arrests.

“It’s not about who’s dropping off what medication or how much they’re dropping off,” Smith reiterates. “It’s about getting these medications off the street and not letting them fall into the hands of children.”

At the end of the day, the contents of the drop boxes are taken to what is called a “reverse distributor” to be safely broken down and disposed of.

When Is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day and Where Is A Drop Box Near Me?

The next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is this October 29, beginning at 10am.

And you can use this online tool to find drop box locations near you.

Sarasota also has a permanent drop box for unwanted prescription medications at the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office at 6010 Cattleridge Blvd., which is open from 7am to 7pm daily.

IMPORTANT: Sarasota Memorial Hospital is not a drop off location.

“But we do realize how important it is to get these medications off the street,” says Smith. “Because we do see the impact that it does and can have in our community.”

Learn more about the program at the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day website.

Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH’s in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky, and is definitely not an undercover DEA agent.

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Posted: Oct 18, 2022,
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