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April 27 is National Drug Take Back Day

Old medicine does not spark joy! Here's what you need to know about decluttering and safely disposing of expired and no-longer-needed medications.

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Here’s Why You Need to Throw Out Old Medicine

Whether it’s past the expiration date or no longer needed, it’s important to properly dispose of useless medicine. Getting those prescriptions out of your home reduces the chance that others accidentally or intentionally misuse the medicine and it helps keep those drugs out of the environment. Plus, you’ll have more bathroom storage space once you declutter your bathroom cabinet and drawers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental drug overdoses are relatively common with prescription opioids alone accounting for 142,557 trips to the emergency room. Here’s a clever use for an empty prescription bottle.

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pharmacist Atstock Productions/Shutterstock

Return Medicine in Person at Permanent Collection Facilities

On Drug Take Back Day, take your medicine back in person. Pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, long-term-care facilities and narcotic treatment programs near you may offer programs that will collect and properly dispose of unused drugs. Check for an authorized facility in your area at

Create extra room inside a medicine cabinet with a magnetic strip. Here’s how.

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Return Medicine in Person at Periodic Events

On National Drug Take Back Day, special events are held to offer people the opportunity to dispose of medicine. “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where temporary collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal of prescription drugs,” notes the FDA.

This easy-to-make medicine cabinet has a secret compartment!

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Throw Out in the Household Trash

Most medicines can also be disposed of in the household trash. According to the FDA, the proper way to do this is as follows:

  • Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, cat litter or used coffee grounds
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag
  • Throw the container in your household trash and
  • Delete all personal information on the prescription label of empty pill bottles or medicine packaging, then dispose of the container.

Here’s why you should drill holes in your trash can.

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Flush Some Medicines Down the Toilet

There are some medicines that have specific disposal instructions to flush down the toilet. “These medicines may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal with just one dose if they are used by someone other than the person for whom they were prescribed,” says the FDA. It should be noted that this isn’t the most environmentally-friendly option for most drugs.

Here’s how to improve toilet performance.

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Mail Them In

Some pharmacies, including those at Costco, Rite Aid and CVS offer postage-paid envelopes that customers can purchase to mail in any prescription. On National Drug Take Back Day, mail in all opioids and over-the-counter medications to a disposal facility.

Take a look at these 12 unusual things postal carriers see every day.

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Use a Disposal Kiosk

Some stores, like Walgreens, offer free, anonymous and secure kiosks where you can dispose of any medication. Just be sure you remove your personal information prior to dropping the unwanted medication in the slot. Check out these 15 items you didn’t think you could recycle.

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police Keith Homan/Shutterstock

Drop Medicine Off at a Police Department

Some police departments offer medication drop boxes and you can use them any time. If you’re using National Drug Take Back Day as a reminder to throw out unwanted medicine, be sure to check here prior to the day to see if your local police department offers disposal.

Here’s a look at 11 things you think are recyclable but they’re not.

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fire astudio/Shutterstock

Drop Medicine Off at a Fire Department

Some fire departments also offer collection boxes for you to drop off unwanted medications. Call your local fire department to see if they offer this service. If they don’t have a permanent dropoff box, they may hold an event for National Drug Take Back Day. Here are 12 fire safety tips you need to know.

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Use the Deterra Drug Deactivation System

Deterra is a simple, environmentally-friendly bag system that allows you to safely dispose of old and unwanted medicine. “The pouch material contains organic additives that are consumed by microbes found in landfills, resulting in degradation of the plastic pouch. The end result is the release of water and carbon dioxide, with little organic biomass left behind,” according to the manufacturer’s website. Purchase a 3-pack for National Drug Take Back Day. You can use one, save one and share one! Here are 10 things you need to know about electronic waste and e-waste disposal.

Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer, currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty and scientific news. Follow her traveling adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected] and check out her website:

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