Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet

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When you’re elbow deep in cleaning your house, garage and storage areas this spring, don’t forget about one commonly overlooked area – your medicine cabinet. April 26 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, a day where collection sites are set up all over the country for people to properly dispose of expired or unused prescription drugs.

Why proper disposal?

Medications can harm others they are not prescribed for, including children and animals as well. And disposing of old medications reduces the risk of unintentional use, overdose and illegal abuse. Plus, a wide range of prescription drugs has been detected in lakes, streams, rivers and drinking water supplies due to flushing them down the toilet.

How do I throw away unused or expired medicine?

The best way to get rid of unused or expired medications is to take them to a medication drop-off location. Call your pharmacy or city hall to ask where the closest drop-off location is. If there isn’t a convenient drop-off location, follow the disposal instructions on the patient information that comes with your medicine. If you don't have this, follow these tips and then throw the medicine in the trash:

  • Take the medicine out of its original container. To protect your privacy, scratch off any personal information on the label.
  • Mix the medicine with something that masks the medicine or makes it unappealing, like kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
  • Put the mixture in a container or plastic bag and place it in your trash.

What about flushing?

Only a select few of medications should be flushed down the sink or toilet. For a list of these drugs, visit the FDA website.

Still have questions? Talk to your pharmacist if you have other questions about how to properly dispose of your medicine. Your pharmacist may also be able to tell you about any drug "take-back" programs in your area. You can also check with your state health department for additional information.

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. As part of this initiative, Ochsner Health System provides drop-off locations at various campuses throughout southeast Louisiana on Drug Take-Back Day.

Click here to check for a collection site near you.