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Proper Disposal of Prescription Drugs and Over-the-Counter Medications: Why it Matters

It’s that time of year again, time to clean out your medicine cabinet. But once you’ve collected your expired or unwanted medications, what do you do with them?

Proper disposal of prescription (RX) drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) pills is important to prevent misuse and harmful environmental effects. That's why it's essential to dispose of them safely and responsibly. Don’t just toss them in the trash or flush them down the toilet because when you dispose of them this way, you could be causing water pollution. This can negatively impact drinking water supplies and local aquatic life. There‘s also the potential that kids or pets could find the discarded medications and accidentally consume them!

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day provides everyone with an opportunity to dispose of unwanted or unneeded medications. National Take Back Day is an event sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that happens every year in April and October. On this day, people can drop off their expired or unwanted RX drugs, OTC pills and pet medications at designated locations across the country. Find a location near you. It’s an excellent opportunity to properly dispose of your old or unwanted medications safely.

Safely Dispose of Medications at Home

If you miss Take Back Day there are still safe ways to get rid of your old pills at home. First, check your medicine bottle for disposal instructions. If there aren't any, you can dispose of them using special drug disposal bags called Deterra bags. These biodegradable bags deactivate and destroy medications. Check with your local prevention coalitions – many offer these bags for free. You can also mix the medications with undesirable substances like cat litter or coffee grounds, seal them in a plastic bag, and then throw them away in the trash. This will help prevent your kids or pets from getting to them. Just remember, never flush medications down the toilet or drain as that can contaminate our waterways and harm the environment.

Year-Round Disposal

If you’d like to dispose of your RX and OTC pills outside of your home, find a year-round drop box for safe medication disposal in Connecticut communities. If you are outside of Connecticut, you can try this national drop box locator. These drop boxes are found at police stations or pharmacies, and are available for public use. They provide safe and anonymous disposal of medications, no questions asked. There’s no forms to fill out to use the drop box, and no need to worry about being judged for what you’re tossing.

Do your part to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our planet by practicing proper medication disposal!


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