When was the last time you cleaned out your medicine cabinet? If you are like many Americans, you likely have unwanted, expired or unused medications lying around. Maybe you had a dental procedure but ended up not needing the pain medication prescribed by your dentist, or you have some expired over-the-counter medications that you haven't had the time to get rid of. I would recommend sorting through and cleaning out your medication storage since these medications might not work as well and can pose a potential safety issue.

Unwanted medications in the house pose a risk to both children and pets in the home. Pain medications in particular are concerning as more than half of non-prescription opioid users report getting them from friends and family; using these drugs may result in overdose.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to dispose of medications. The best way would be to do so through a drug takeback program. The DEA hosts a National Prescription Drug Take Back twice a year, and the next scheduled Take Back Day is October 29, 2022, from 10 am to 2 pm. Many pharmacies also have medication drop-off boxes for safe disposal. You can visit the DEA website to find specific collection sites for Take Back Day and to find local pharmacy locations for disposal.

As a last resort, you can consider home disposal. The FDA recommends that some medications be flushed down the toilet. I would recommend checking in the medication leaflet and at FDA.gov. Other medications should be mixed with something undesirable like coffee grounds or cat litter, sealed in something you can close like a Ziploc bag and then disposed of in the garbage.

As we transition into longer and cooler evenings this fall, take some time to go through and safely dispose of any expired or unwanted medications in your home.

Lexie Powell is an assistant professor in the Pharmacotherapy Department at the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences based in Spokane.

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