While some medications, like antibiotics, are taken until they’re gone, others might have pills left over. Which begs the question: After you’re done taking prescription medication, what do you do with the extra? The two easiest options are to keep it in your medicine cabinet or send it down the drain. Unfortunately, those two ideas aren’t the safest.
It is important to properly discard expired or unused medication to ensure they are not taken or abused by others. Behind marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans aged 14 and older. Oftentimes, teens get those prescription drugs from relatives by just looking in the medicine cabinet. Lastly, some drugs can become toxic when taken after they have expired, which is why it is of the utmost importance to safely dispose of old medications.
Disposal by flushing does get the pills out of your house, but it can have negative environmental impacts on fish, birds and other wildlife. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants and mood stabilizers, have been detected in water sources around the world.
That’s where the third option comes in. Drug take-back programs were established to serve as a safe way to get rid of untaken medications. Want to know where you can go to take advantage of this resource in Michigan?
- The 10th annual National Drug Take Back Day will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2015 from 10:00am to 2:00pm. In 2014, this event successfully collected over 300 tons of unwanted medications. Check back here any day after September 1st to see what locations are near you.
- On Tuesday, September 22, 2015 from 10:30am to 1:00pm, the Michigan Pharmacists Association is holding a Medication Disposal Event in conjunction with Pharmacy Day at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.
- Washtenaw County gives residents the opportunity to return medications through the Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program, free of charge. Head here to see participating pharmacies and prescription drugs eligible for disposal.
- The Big Red Barrel Program provides disposal barrels in Livingston, Lenawee and Washtenaw Counties for prescription, over-the-counter and controlled substances. Operation Medicine Cabinet does the same thing in Oakland County.
- Through the Yellow Jug Old Drugs Program, you can take unused medications to participating Michigan pharmacies for proper disposal.
For other tips about using and handling medication correctly, check out these posts from A Healthier Michigan:
- New Research on Drug-Related Hospitalizations Highlights Importance of Safe Medication for Seniors
- Dental Prescriptions and the Dangers of Teen Drug Abuse
- The Dangers of Sharing Medicine
About the author: Laurie Wesolowicz is director II of Pharmacy Services Clinical at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Her clinical expertise includes formulary development, specialty pharmacy initiatives, physician and pharmacist pay-for-performance incentives, medication safety and clinical utilization management operations, including pharmacy-related fraud and abuse. She’s been an adjunct clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan since 1995, and she serves as the director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and University of Michigan Postgraduate Year One Managed Care Pharmacy Residency program.
Photo credit: The Javorac