Unused Medication Disposal

by Darling Garcia, J.D., Director of OperationsBlue plastic box containing various medication

I was recently going through my medicine cabinet and was astounded by the amount of unused medicine we had stashed in our medicine cabinet. We are a relatively healthy household but looking at the piles of unused medicine, you would have guessed otherwise.

Without a doubt, medication has a vital role in treating diseases and other conditions. However, expired medicines must be disposed properly to avoid potential harm to others and to the environment.  According to the Capital Area Take Back Meds Program, “Twenty to sixty percent of prescription medications go unused and are eventually disposed. Nearly all unused prescription and non-prescription over-the-counter pharmaceuticals enter either our solid waste system or our sewage system.” Flushing down medicine or disposing medicine in the trash is not recommended.

As recently as April 2016, in collaboration with state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, as part of the 11th National Take Back Day, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Control Program collected 893,498 pounds of unwanted medicines. Michigan collected 16,707 pounds of unwanted medicine, 135 law enforcement agencies participated and had 156 collection sites throughout the State of Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has a website dedicated to increase public awareness of the risks and potential harm associated with misuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Several resources are listed on the MDCH website.

There are several safe medication disposal initiatives throughout the state of Michigan. Below are links to these programs:

I was very fortunate to be able to partake in the Capital Area Take Back Meds program in Ingham County and was able to safely dispose of my unused medication. If you are interested in learning more options on how to safely dispose medication, the Michigan Pharmacists Association is hosting its annual Medication Disposal Event at the south Capitol lawn in Lansing. The 2016 event will be held Tuesday, Sept. 20, from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The event allows the public to safely and responsibly dispose of medications, including controlled substance medications/narcotics.

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