National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day: History, Details, and Support


National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day: History, Details, and Support

by | Blog

It’s common to check most households’ medicine cabinets and find drugs that are either expired or no longer needed. You would usually not pay much attention to these medicines and just decide to find a day when you’re less busy so you can dispose of them. However, you would realize that the day never comes.

There are two take-back days every year. In 2022, they are April 30 and October 22

We will discuss the drug take-back program and ways to discard unwanted, unused, or expired medicines. Read on to learn more about this life-saving program hosted by the DEA.

What is a prescription drug take-back day?

The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is an event sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA began to host the event in 2010, and it holds twice a year, in April and October.

Before the institution of the prescription drug take-back days, hospitals, pharmacies, and even private practice physicians couldn’t collect leftover and potentially harmful leftover medicines. There were no legal provisions for patients or caregivers to dispose of unused prescription medication.

In 2010, however, Congress legislated the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act. They also developed new guidelines for the safe disposal of prescription drugs. While the DEA continues to host drug take-back days, certain hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, and drug treatment facilities now have authorization as drug take-back centers.

Since its inception, the prescription drug take-back days have successfully received 7,634 tons of medicines from 21 editions of the event.

Importance of proper drug disposal

According to recent data, about 6.5 million Americans abuse prescription medication. The National Institute on Drug Abuse report also shows that about 48 million Americans have used nonmedical medications. This figure amounts to 20% of the total U.S. population.

Medication abuse has seen a steady decline thanks to education and events like drug take-back days. The statistics for drug abuse are still twice the combined figure for other illegal substances abuse like cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy.

Studies show that victims of drug abuse often get the abused prescription medication from friends and family and often from the household medicine cabinet.

Commonly abused or misused prescription drugs.

•      Opioids: These are a class of pain-relieving medicines that interact with opioid receptors in your brain. Some are produced naturally from the poppy plant, and others are synthesized artificially. Examples include Hydrocodone, Morphine, OxyContin, and Kadian.

•   Central nervous system depressants: these are medications used to treat people with anxiety, seizures, panic attacks, and insomnia. They work by slowing the brain’s activity down. This causes the patient’s muscles to relax. Examples include Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin.

•   Stimulants: these are medicines that produce increased activity in a patient. They are sometimes called “uppers.” People who abuse stimulants experience enhanced focus and increased energy levels. Examples include Ritalin and Adderall.

How to dispose of medications at home

There’ll be instances where a take-back option is unavailable, and you wish to dispose of the medicines in your cabinet. There are two ways to dispose of these medications safely to prevent abuse or mishaps.

Disposal by flushing

Some medicines come with instructions to flush the leftovers down a toilet or sink. This instruction is essential because these medicines are usually harmful if abused. Flushing becomes the next best option if the opportunity of a take-back isn’t available.

You can determine if a medication falls within this category by checking the patient information leaflet inside its pack. You can also scan through the medicines recommended for flushing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Be sure your medication is on the flush list before you send them down the drain.

Disposal through household trash

You can dispose of almost all medicines in your household waste bin, except those on the flush list. These medications can be prescription or over-the-counter (OTC). And it doesn’t matter if they’re pills, drops, liquids, creams, or patches.

Below are the steps to follow:

1.    Remove the medicines from the original containers they came in. Mix with unpleasant substances like animal litter, dirt, or coffee grounds. The undesirable substance will make the medication less appealing to pets and kids. It’ll also repel anyone who may want to look for medicines in the trash.

2.    Pour the medicine into another container, preferably one you can close (like an empty can or a re-sealable storage bag). It will prevent the medication from leaking out.

3.    Now, you can discard the container into the trash.

4.    Take the original container and scratch off your personal information from it to keep your identity and privacy. Discard the container as well.

You can also contact your pharmacist or health care provider if you have questions concerning your drug.

Disposal of Fentanyl Patches

Fentanyl Patches are an example of medical products that you should flush. A fentanyl patch contains powerful opioid substances that can be harmful to people without a prescription. It’s an adhesive patch that delivers a potent pain reliever through the patient’s skin.

A used fentanyl patch still contains a potent dose of medicine, hence the instruction to flush both leftover and used patches.

Disposing Inhaler Products

Medical inhalers are a source of environmental concern because they contain hydrofluorocarbon propellants. An inhaler is an essential medical accessory for people with asthma or other respiratory challenges, like a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. And they have saved uncountable lives.

However, be careful about disposing of a used inhaler. Always read the instructions on the handling of aerosol products, including inhalers. It is hazardous to puncture an aerosol product or throw it into a fire. Always follow local regulations on the disposal of such products and contact your recycling and disposal agency.


We urge you to join us in raising awareness for the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, happening on April 30. Disposing of no longer needed drugs is just part of the fight against prescription drug abuse. Join us on social media to share your story or support. Educate your friends and family about the importance of this day and encourage them to take advantage of it by submitting medicines no longer necessary but still found in their medicine cabinets.

If you need to find a drop-off location, you can find a locator tool on the DEA home page.


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