Too often, unused prescription drugs find their way into the wrong hands, states the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
As part of its onging campaign to help Americans clean out their medicine cabinets, the DEA has launched “National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day” twice a year. The next one is this Saturday, April 27, 2019, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Take-Back Day is a safe, convenient, and responsible way to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs, the DEA says.
Six million Americans have misused controlled prescription drugs, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The study found that most abused prescription drugs were gotten from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.
The DEA’s Take-Back Day website  offers a collection site locator where nearby residents can dispose of their unused prescription drugs. The last Take-Back Day was held Oct. 27, 2018. And the numbers show it was a success, the DEA states. Total law enforcement participation came in at 4,770 departments. While total collection sites numbered 5,839. The total weight of the prescription drugs collected: 914,236 lbs. (457.12 Tons).
Public health officials say unused or expired prescription medications amount to a safety issue — not just for the public but for the individual who was prescribed the medication.
Over-the-counter pills, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, may still have some effect and won’t harm individuals beyond their expiration dates. But that’s not the case with many prescription drugs that treat chronic diseases. Paul Gipps, M.D. , a geriatrician and internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care , cautions his patients against using life-saving medications, such as nitroglycerin and epinephrine injectors for anaphylactic allergic reactions, beyond their expiration dates.
“These medications must be at their most potent level, as determined by their expiration dates, to ensure they will work as they should,” he said. “I’ve had patients use expired nitroglycerin tablets for chest pains and have ended up in the ER.”
Another important issue is proper storage. Some experts recommend not storing medications in a medicine cabinet in a warm, damp bathroom or in the kitchen, where temperatures can also fluctuate.
“It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s storage instructions,” said Dr. Gipps. “It’s probably not a good idea to keep medications in your car, for example.”