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Unused, Unwanted, and Unsafe: What To Do with Old Medications? By Our July Student Pharmacist, Kevin Wenceslao.

Blog 2 Medicine Cabinet

Do you have unused medications sitting around in your medicine cabinet? Are you afraid that a family member or loved one might accidentally take or use that medicine? Do you know how to properly dispose of those medications?

For this week’s topic, Plain City Druggist is here to explain why it’s important to get rid of old prescription medications and to also educate on how to dispose of them properly.

To start off, there are a number of reasons why people may have old medications laying around.

  • Medications are often stopped or changed for a variety of reasons: allergic reactions, side effects, or lack of effectiveness.
  • Other medicines, such as painkillers or rescue inhalers, are taken only “as needed” and may not be completely used up by the time they expire.
  • Someone in the family may have died and other family members are not sure what to do with those medications.

In any case, holding on to these old medications can lead to problems such as overdose, accidental poisoning, or even drug abuse.

Medications do not last forever; all medicine has an expiration date. Typically, all prescription drugs have a “discard by” date on the label, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications have an expiration on the original container. After a drug expires, it can lose effectiveness or become harmful. Simply having an expired medicine in your house can increase the risk of you or your family member taking it by mistake which could lead to accidental poisoning. If you are ever unsure if a drug is expired, don’t hesitate to call your local pharmacist at Plain City Druggist to ask.

Another potential hazard of keeping unused medications, especially controlled substances like opiates, is the risk of misuse and abuse. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mentions that studies have shown that many abused prescription drugs are often obtained from friends and family. These drugs are easily accessible because they are commonly kept in a place like the medicine cabinet where they can quickly be found. The potential for abuse is why it is important to discard any unused medicine when you no longer need it. By getting rid of these drugs in a proper manner, you can help prevent abuse.

So now the question is, how do I get rid of these old medicines in a safe and responsible manner?

Luckily, there are a number of options available for you right here in Plain City. First and foremost, if you ever need help with disposing of a medication, Plain City Druggist is a great place to start. We are always happy to answer questions and provide information about local drug take back facilities and programs. Every year, Madison County hosts a Drug Take Back Day in April. This event serves to educate the public and encourage the community to bring back expired, unused, and unwanted prescription medications. Furthermore, this process is anonymous and no questions will be asked at the event.

In addition to this event, there are three local sites that have permanent drop off boxes that can be used throughout the year:

Blog 2 Fire Department

  • Union County Sheriff’s Office:
    221 West 5th St, Marysville, OH 43040
  • Pleasant Valley Fire Deparment:
    650 West Main St. Plain City, OH 43064
  • Richwood Police Department:
    153 North Franklin St. Richwood, OH 43344

If these options are not accessible to you, there are also ways to dispose of medicines at home. In order to prevent harming others or the environment, and to reduce the risk of abuse, there are specific instructions when it comes to disposing of medications at home.

The FDA recommends following these steps when disposing of drugs in the trash:

  • Mix the medicine with unpalatable substances like used coffee grounds, kitten litter, or dirt and placing it in a sealable container before throwing it out in the trash.
  • The original bottle should be thrown away separately with all the information scratched out.
  • Some medications are especially harmful if taken by mistake or have a high potential for abuse, and the FDA actually recommends flushing these medicines down the toilet to reduce those risks.

Click HERE for the FDA list of medications that should be disposed by flushing.

As you can see, keeping expired, unused, or unwanted medications in the household can lead to many problems. Proper disposal of these medicines can help keep you and your family safe. In addition to having a local pharmacy like Plain City Druggist as a resource, the FDA website also has great sources with more in-depth information about drug disposal.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to come in to the pharmacy to ask!

Blog 2 steps


Drug Disposal Information. (n.d.). U.S. Department
of Justice. Drug Enforcement Administration. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov /drug_disposal/index.html

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.).
Special Features – Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/specialfeatures/ucm481139.htm

Commissioner, O. O. (n.d.). Consumer Updates – How
to Dispose of Unused Medicines. .S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm101653.htm

Press, M. (2017, April 11). Drug ‘Take-Back’ in
Plain City this month. AIM Media West Operating. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from http://www.madison-press.com/news/249995/drug-take-back-in-plain-city-this-month

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