Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions across the country. In 2011, over 6 million people aged 12 or older abused prescription drugs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a government agency that conducts a national survey on related topics each year. The same survey showed that over 50% of people abusing these drugs got them from friends or family for free. Often, those who abuse drugs, including teens, take them right out of the medicine cabinet.

Ridding the home of unused, expired, or unneeded medications helps to prevent the drugs from falling into the wrong hands. Cities and counties across the country provide permanent medication disposal programs. Recently, the Drug Enforcement Agency has allowed pharmacies to register as disposal sites for both controlled and non-controlled medications. Other programs are run by hazardous waste disposal agencies or other entities that cannot accept controlled substance medications, but can take all other unused drugs for safe disposal. AWARXE’s online locator tool on the Drug Disposal Sites page allows users to search for local disposal programs.

If there are no drug disposal sites near you, there are options for disposing of drugs at home. The information that comes with your prescription may provide instructions on home disposal. Only some medications should be flushed down the toilet, and the US Food and Drug Administration has a list of these drugs on its website. If there are no instructions for disposal, you can throw the drugs in your home garbage. But first, take them out of the container and mix them with an undesirable substance like coffee grounds or cat litter. Seal the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container that can be disposed of in the garbage.

Parents should securely store all medications in the household. For example, you may want to lock your medications in a secure cabinet or a medicine safe. In particular, you should securely store controlled substance prescription drugs, such as certain pain medications and ADHD medications. You may also wish to keep track of the number of pills left in the bottle. Remember that sometimes prescription drugs are taken out of medicine cabinets by visitors to the home.

More details about drug disposal programs are available on the Find Disposal Information page of the AWARXE website at WWW.AWARERX.ORG/get-informed/find-disposal-information.