National Drug Take Back Day: How to properly dispose of expired, unused medications |

National Drug Take Back Day: How to properly dispose of expired, unused medications

Set for Saturday, Oct. 24, the day is one way for people to safely get rid of old prescriptions

A woman looks through her medicine cabinet to determine which medicine is expired and how to properly dispose of expired medicine.
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Pharmacy services available at MRH Memorial Regional Health makes it easy for you to fill your prescriptions and medications. The healthcare system offers pharmacy services in Steamboat Springs and locally in Craig at its Medical Office Building, 750 Hospital Loop. Services include free delivery within 17 miles of Craig, drive-thru and pick-up options and a pharmacy discount program.   Please note the Community Pharmacy cannot take back any unused or expired drugs.   If you have any concerns regarding your medications or finding ways to properly dispose of them, stop by the Community Pharmacy from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, or call 970-826-3055 to speak with a pharmacist.

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Abuse of prescription drugs is a serious public health crisis in the United States — specifically misuse of prescription opioids, CNS depressants and stimulants.

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. A majority of those individuals obtained those drugs from family or friends — most often from the home medicine cabinet. Easy access is what makes misuse of these medications so prevalent, however, the effects are far from harmless.

Across the country, 67,367 drug overdose deaths were reported in 2018 — 70 percent of which were related to opioids. The Colorado Medical Society reports that 250 to 500 Coloradans die from drug overdose deaths each year, and 2,547 state deaths in the past five years were from opioid overdoses, according to the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention.

One of the best methods for keeping prescription drugs out of the wrong hands is through proper disposal, which is why National Drug Take Back Day aims to make a difference in communities across the U.S.

Drug Take Back Day details

National Drug Take Back Day typically occurs each year in April and October. The events serve as a safe, convenient and responsible way for people to dispose of their unused or expired prescription drugs, including controlled substances.

April’s Drug Take Back Day was canceled due to COVID-19, but the Craig Police Department will hold the October event in town from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, in the Walmart parking lot, 2000 W. Victory Way. Last year, 66 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter pills were collected by residents.

Community members are encouraged to visit the collection site during this time to dispose of any unwanted or unneeded medications. All drop-offs are anonymous and free of judgment.

When to get rid of old prescriptions

Prescription drug expiration dates vary depending on the type of medication, according to Natasha Nielson, retail pharmacy director at Memorial Regional Health’s Community Pharmacy. Drug ingredients break down or degrade with time, but this is often unnoticeable to the user because it doesn’t start to look funky or smell.

Tablet and capsule prescription medications typically expire one year after the date they are filled at your pharmacy, while most of the liquid antibiotic medications that need to be mixed, generally for children, expire within 10 to 14 days after they are mixed, Nielson said.

“For patient safety, it is always best to check with your pharmacy if you are concerned about the expiration of a prescription medication,” she said.

Recommendations for proper disposal

People don’t have to wait for National Drug Take Back Day to get rid of their unwanted prescriptions. Residents are encouraged to utilize a safe disposal location designated by the DEA year-round. All unused or unwanted medications can be dropped off locally at the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, 800 W. First St., which is open 24/7, including holidays.

If dropping off medication is not an option, residents can also dispose of their drugs at home, but they need to be serious about practicing all necessary safety precautions.

At-home disposal recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration include following disposal instructions on the drug label, if included, and scratching out all identifying information of the drug so it cannot be recognized.

Nielson tells patients to mix the expired or unused medication in a sealable bag with a deterrent like coffee grounds, dirt or kitty litter before throwing it away. This bag should go into a larger trash bag so that it’s hidden from plain view before being thrown away into the household trashcan.

MRH Community Pharmacy offers a product called DisposeRX, which is a packet that can be mixed with a prescription to dissolve it, Nielson said.

“If you dispose of medications incorrectly, like flushing them down the toilet, those drugs can leach into the water system and cause harm to other people and the environment,” she said. “In the same sense, if you don’t dispose of them at all by leaving them lying around your home, or if you put them in the trash, other people could have access to them. This becomes specifically dangerous if you have children around.”

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