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Surplus prescription medications can pose a significant risk to both adults and children. As stated by the National Safety Council, “the largest source of easily available and ‘free’ abused medications are the billions of prescription pills readily accessible in home medicine cabinets.” The best way to prevent prescription drug misuse, including the misuse of potentially deadly opioids, is by properly storing and ultimately disposing of excess medications. Unfortunately, in our latest poll, we asked, “do you currently have leftover or excess prescription medications in your home?” and half of all respondents replied “yes.”
A more comprehensive survey conducted by Consumer Reports found that “one-third of Americans haven’t cleaned out their medicine cabinets in a year or more; and nearly a fifth (19 percent) haven’t done so in three years.” A study that appeared in JAMA Surgery stated that only a quarter of people in recovery from surgery properly store or dispose of their excess prescriptions – signifying this problem is incredibly pervasive.
While properly disposing of prescription medications may seem complicated, we have compiled a number of tips and resources to help. Major retailers like Walmart are also trying to do their part to make it easier for people to dispose of their excess opioid medications. The ubiquitous retailer is now providing its pharmacy patients with DisposeRX, “a small packet [containing] ingredients that … when emptied into a pill bottle with warm water, ultimately enable patients to responsibly dispose of leftover medications in their trash.”
Now that you know how to get rid of your extra prescription medications, consider making it a monthly habit to clean out your medicine cabinet. It’s a small step that may help save a life.
Hannah Freedman is a communications and digital associate at Center on Addiction