Person grabbing prescription pills from medicine cabinet

Dispose of Unused Medications on Drug Take Back Day

It’s not just old prescriptions sitting in your medicine cabinet that could be misused.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning of a dangerous social media trend called the “Benadryl Challenge,” in which teenagers are overconsuming the common over-the-counter allergy medication Benadryl and posting videos to TikTok. Abuse of Benadryl can lead to serious heart problems, seizures, coma or even death.

It’s the latest example of the hidden dangers of keeping both over-the-counter and prescription medications in the home without the proper safeguards or protections. The FDA recommends storing both over-the-counter and prescription medications up and away in a locked cabinet or container to keep them from being abused or misused.

Disposing of old prescriptions and unused medications is also an important step to minimize potential abuse. However, flushing them down the drain or the toilet is not the way to go. Since medicine doesn’t lose potency just because it’s expired, flushing it away doesn’t mean it’s gone. Research has linked water contamination via prescription disposal with abnormalities in aquatic species like fish. When medicines are flushed or thrown in the garbage, they also can get into local waters.

Aside from environmental reasons, removing prescription drugs from your medicine cabinet also helps keep them out of the hands of your loved ones. Consider some of these statistics:

  • According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. And many people are getting their pills through friends or relatives, often by raiding the family medicine cabinet.
  • Aside from alcohol, marijuana and tobacco cigarettes, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older.
  • Studies have shown that many people who inject heroin reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin.
  • In 2013, a study found that the number of children being accidentally poisoned by adult prescriptions was on the rise.

These very serious numbers prompted the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to create National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in 2010. The idea: Offer a safe and anonymous way for people to get rid of expired or unwanted medications. The program has led to the collection of more than 12.7 million pounds of prescription drugs nationally since its start – that’s about 6,300 tons of pills.

The next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. All you need to do is take your unused or expired prescriptions to one of the designated drop-off locations near you.

As the state’s largest health insurers, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are committed to improving the value and quality of life in communities across Michigan. As a part of this commitment, BCBSM and BCN have supported the DEA’s Drug Take Back Day since 2011. 

Looking for more information on how to safely dispose of your prescriptions? You may also like these posts:

Photo credit: flattop341

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