It’s National Take Back Day!

What is National Take Back Day? 

National Take Back Day is a part of the DEA initiative to limit the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs by safely and anonymously collecting unused or expired prescription medications at approved collection sites. It usually occurs twice annually nationwide, once in the spring and once in the fall. October 2020’s National Take Back Day saw

  • Total Law Enforcement Participation: 4,153
  • Total Collection Sites: 4,587
  • Total Weight* Collected:  985,392 lbs. (492.7 Tons)

To partake in this year’s spring Take Back Day, you can use this search tool from the DOJ to find a disposal location near you. If you have COVID-19 concerns and don’t want to dispose of medication in person, read on for information on safely disposing of medicine at home.

Safely Disposing of Medications at Home 

It is preferable to dispose of expired or unwanted medication through DEA collection sites, but at-home disposal- when done properly- is an effective way to keep unsafe medications out of your home and away from loved ones who may abuse them. In times like these it is important to be as vigilant as possible to dispose of medications responsibly. 

FDA guidelines advise disposing of  medicines in the following ways: 

  • Flushing Medicine: Some medications are especially dangerous to individuals when misused, which is why it is recommended that for these select medicines that you flush them either down a toilet or down a sink–but this does not apply to all medicines. Look at the label or patient information leaflet if you have one to determine if your medication is one that should be flushed, or see the FDA flush list here. 
  • Dispose in the Trash: If your medication is not one of the medicines listed in the FDA flush list, it can be safely disposed of in the household trash if you follow a few important steps: 
    1. Remove your drugs from their original containers and mix them with used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. Mixing your old drugs with undesirable material makes it less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs. 
    2. Put the medicine mixture into a sealable container- like a Ziplock bag or plastic food container- to ensure that it doesn’t leak or spill. 
    3. Dispose of the safely contained drugs in the trash. 
    4. Take the medication packaging and scratch out any personal information printed on it to protect your identity and privacy, and dispose of that as well.

Why is it Important to Dispose of Expired Medicine? 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 18 million people (more than 6 percent of those aged 12 and older) have misused prescription medications at least once in the past year. These drugs were most often obtained from family members and friends, typically from, “the home medicine cabinet.” Considering the ongoing opioid crisis occurring in the United States, it is especially important for individuals who have unused prescription opioids in their medicine cabinets to dispose of them in a safe, effective manner, which is just what National Take Back day aims to do. The rate of opioid overdose deaths increased by 200% between 2010 and 2017 in New York State alone, according to the NYS Department of Health’s 2019 Annual Opioid Report. Disposing of your old prescription drugs is a good way to ensure that they are not ultimately misused by at-risk friends or family. 

How Else Can I Help? 

If you want to help further promote and raise awareness for National Take Back Day, the DEA provides a digital partnership toolbox that includes printable posters and pamphlets, as well as postable social media images for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These are useful tools when it comes to spreading the word through your social media circles. 

If you or a loved one are suffering from prescription medication addiction, New York State has resources that can help get you on the path to recovery.