Got Leftover Prescription Drugs? Here’s a Chance to Toss Them Safely This Weekend

April 27, 2012

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

Camp Pendleton, CA - Packing returned meds into boxes during DEA's 1st National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, 2010. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/U.S. Pacific Fleet

Each year, vast quantities of unused medications are discarded in household garbage or flushed down toilets, and end up polluting our rivers and oceans. These products and byproducts have been found in water supplies and in fish and wildlife. 

AJN’s 2010 article “Leftover Drugs in the Water Supply: Don’t Flush Those Pills!” discusses the harmful effects of carelessly discarded medications and highlights state “take-back” programs in Delaware and Maine that were organized by nurses.

The federal government also has a “national take-back” initiative under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency Office of Diversion Control. This Saturday, April 28, between 10am and 2pm, the agency will hold its fourth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, and will have collection sites around the country. (Click here to find local collection sites. Just enter your zip code.)

Last year, the program conducted collections at 5,327 sites in all 50 states and territories. In all, 188.5 tons of unwanted or expired medications were collected. 

So, talk it up with colleagues and patients and hospital employers—help protect our environment.

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