Written by SMH PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident Julie Mavrakis
More than 20 million people in the U.S. misused prescription medications in 2019, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
In 2020, fatal overdoses (of prescription and illicit drugs) reached a record high, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What can we do to help reverse this disturbing public health crisis?
It’s important to know that most people who misuse prescription drugs actually obtain them from family, friends and acquaintances, with home medicine cabinets being the most common source.
By simply keeping our own medications out of a potential abuser’s hands, we can each do our part to help prevent drug abuse and overdose deaths.
- Rethink where and how you store medications at home.
- Regularly clean out expired medications from wherever you store them: bathroom medicine cabinet, kitchen cabinets, purse or even vehicle.
- Properly dispose of unused/expired medicines. (See below.)
Disposing of Unused Medications
The best way to dispose of your unused or expired medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) is to take advantage of the Prescription Drug Take Back Day events that take place twice a year, or to drop them off at collection sites authorized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Semiannual Prescription Drug Take Back Days
National Take Back Day 2021
10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 23
Sarasota Area Collection Sites
Sarasota Police Department
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Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office
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Venice Police Department
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North Port Police Department
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The DEA hosts one-day National Prescription Drug Take Back events each spring and fall. These nationally coordinated events provide a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposing of unused and unwanted prescription drugs.
The next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is coming soon: Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.
In the Sarasota area, there will be multiple convenient drop-off locations. Find the one nearest you by visiting takebackday.dea.gov or choosing one from the collection sites list here.
Once you’ve cleaned out your cabinets removed medicines that are expired or you no longer want/need, simply bag them up and take them to the dropbox at your chosen location any time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Oct. 23.
Keep in mind that you can drop off over-the-counter medications, supplements and prescription medicines (including controlled substances like pain killers), but some items are NOT generally accepted at the dropboxes.
Items that may NOT be accepted include:
- Syringes, needles or other sharps.
- Inhalers, such as those for asthma.
- Aerosol cans.
- Mercury thermometers.
- Iodine-containing medications.
- Illegal drugs or substances (including marijuana) and any prescription medications obtained illegally.
If you’re unsure about an item, check with the collector ahead of time to determine whether it’ll be accepted.
Year-round DEA-authorized Collection Sites
Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locations and DEA-authorized collection sites are year-round options for safely disposing of medications. These are often found in retail, hospital or clinic pharmacies, and/or law enforcement facilities.
You can also check with your local pharmacist to see whether the pharmacy can help you safely dispose of your unused/expired medicines.
In the Sarasota area, Public Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locations include:
- Holiday CVS; 3800 S Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL 34239; 941-955-3328
- Medical Arts Pharmacy of Sarasota; 4417 Bee Ridge Rd, Sarasota, FL 34233; 941-706-1777
- Walgreens; 5800 Bee Ridge Rd, Sarasota, FL 34233; 941-377-1589
Click here to learn more about Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locations.
Household Trash Disposal & Flushing
Flushing medications down the toilet is not recommended, unless you absolutely cannot get to a controlled substance public disposal location or a Drug Take Back Day event, and it is only allowed for drugs that may be especially harmful or fatal to children and pets. For a list of medicines that may be flushed in certain circumstances, visit the Food and Drug Administration website at fda.gov.
Also, if no DEA-authorized collection sites are available and no Prescription Drug Take Back Days are scheduled in your area, you can dispose of many medicines in your household trash. But you cannot throw away medications that are on the FDA flush list.
Follow these steps to dispose of medications in the trash:
1. Mix medicines with an unpalatable substance, such as dirt, used coffee grounds, or kitty litter. Take them out of their original container first. Do not crush tablets or capsules before mixing.
2. Place the mixture in a sealed container (sealed plastic bag or empty can) to prevent the drug from leaking into the garbage.
3. Throw the container in your household trash.
4. When disposing of empty prescription bottles or packages, be sure to mark out identifying personal information to make it unreadable.
SMH PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident Julie Mavrakis, PharmD, is a licensed pharmacist currently completing her pharmacy residency training. She has an interest in acute care services and a passion for bettering her community.