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Cleaning Out the Cabinet

Author: Kate H. Gamble, Senior Editor

By Kate H. Gamble

Prescription drug safety will take center stage when the US Drug Enforcement Administration holds its second National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. The program, which will occur at more than 5,100 sites nationwide, collects expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs that can be a potentially dangerous source of diversion if left in the home.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, medications were the leading cause of poisoning deaths in 2009, with antipsychotics, cardiovascular medications, opioids, and acetaminophen combinations identified as being most frequently associated with poison-related deaths. A 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than abuse cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin combined. The public can help eliminate drugs that are highly susceptible to misuse and abuse by safely disposing of expired, unused or unwanted prescription drugs, the Association stated in a press release.

A number of areas have had success with take-back programs, including the Texas Panhandle Poison Center in Amarillo, Texas. Since hold the first Medication Cleanout event in September 2009, officials at the center have collected almost 3,000 pounds and more than 20,000 containers of medications.

"More than half of the people that have brought unused medications to an event say that they would have kept the medications in their home if a medication take-back program was not available," said Ronica Farrar, educator with Texas Panhandle Poison Center and co-founder of Medication Cleanout. "By providing a method for people to get rid of the medicine they no longer need, we are preventing poisonings, abuse, and misuse while protecting the environment.

A number of other poison centers around the country are participating in local events, including the following:
Patients are encouraged to take advantage of the services being offered by poison control centers to facilitate the disposal of unused or expired medications.
"Poison centers are prepared to take calls about medication or anything else that can be harmful to you if taken the wrong way," said Jim Hirt, executive director of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. "Poison centers are staffed with medical experts who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer questions."

To find the nearest collection site, click here.

For more information, click on the links below: