Disposing Unwanted Medications on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The day aims to address the importance and urgency of properly disposing unused and expired medication.

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 27 this year and aims to address the importance and urgency of properly disposing unused and expired medication. Thousands of locations across the United States will be serve as sites for patients to visit and dispose of their unwanted medications in order to protect individuals from misuse and potential overdose.

The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that approximately 6 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs, indicating that the majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.1

In fact, a recent survey of 1700 individuals conducted by Brightline Strategies and sponsored by DisposeRx found that 80% of respondents "always" or "sometimes" dispose of medications at home through flushing or pouring methods down the drain, which is not necessarily recommended due to safety concerns involving community water supplies.2

Properly Disposing of Unused Medications

Unused medications are dangerous for families, since many children can accidentally swallow pills if left in an accessible spot, and many teens often misuse prescription medication as a form of recreation. The CDC reports that nearly 60,000 children under the age of 5 years arrive in emergency rooms annually due to poisoning from unsecured medications.

The majority of survey respondents—62%—said that they save their unused medications in case of a recurrence of a medical issue, while 51% hold on to their leftover prescriptions to save money. However, this practice is not recommended, especially for medicines such as aspirins, since many medications are not as effective after their expiration date.

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day promotes safe and effective disposals in local areas, so that individuals have an option to properly dispose their unwanted or expired medications. During the 2018 National Take Back Day, approximately 457 tons of prescription drugs were turned in to the more than 5,000 collection sites across the country.

For more information and resources about treatment information, site locators and more, visit the DEA Takeback date website.


  • Take Back Day website. https://takebackday.dea.gov/?src=dea.gov. Accessed April 18, 2019.
  • Survey: 72% of Americans Say There Is a Need for Easy and Effective Home Medication Disposal [press release]. PR newswire website. Published April 17, 2019. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/survey-72-of-americans-say-there-is-a-need-for-easy-and-effective-home-medication-disposal-300833926.html?tc=eml_cleartime. Accessed April 18, 2019.

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