This is how you should get rid of unwanted prescription drugs

October 10, 2023 | by NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health

Keeping unused prescription drugs in your house isn’t a good idea. In fact, it can be dangerous.

One big problem with keeping old bottles of prescription medication around is that the drugs could end up in the wrong hands — curious teens or even little kids, for example.

There are a couple of ways to get rid of old medication. On Saturday, Oct. 28, it’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. During this event, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), you can bring in any unwanted prescription medication to a disposal site near you.

NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health provides safe medication disposal kiosks inside Edward Hospital (South Lobby), Elmhurst Hospital (door 28 near ER entrance), the outpatient pharmacies at Evanston Hospital, Glenbrook Hospital, Highland Park Hospital, Skokie Hospital and Northwest Community Hospital.

Before you bring your medication to a site, check our list of dos and don’ts:

  • Bring over-the-counter, unused, unwanted, expired controlled medications
  • Cross off personal information on the label OR put pills in a plastic bag
  • NO needles/syringes, EpiPen®, liquids, aerosols, inhalers, thermometers or illegal drugs
  • NO radioactive medicines
  • NO household chemical waste

Additionally, you can also dispose of unwanted prescription drugs yourself. The Food and Drug Administration suggests throwing drugs in the trash, including prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in pills, liquids, drops, patches, creams, and inhalers — provided you follow these steps:

  • Take the drugs out of their original containers and mix them with something such as used coffee grounds, sawdust or cat litter. This makes it less appealing to children or pets and conceals it from someone who might go through the trash looking for drugs.
  • Put the mixture in something you can close, such as a sealable plastic bag or a jar, to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
  • Throw the bag or jar in the garbage.
  • Scribble out your personal information on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity, then throw it away.

In January 2020, Edward-Elmhurst Health launched an opioid denaturing packet initiative, an in-home medication disposal option for patients and community members. It’s a simple three-step process to deactivate leftover drugs in order to prevent drug misuse and protect the environment. Learn more.

If you’re struggling with addiction or are having trouble controlling your use of painkillers, please call Linden Oaks Behavioral Health at 630-305-5027.

Learn more about how we are addressing the opioid crisis.

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