WASHINGTON - Leftover or unneeded prescription drugs are a common sight in many medicine cabinets. But these drugs can cause a lot of harm if they end up in the wrong hands, the water system or the environment.
This weekend, there will be a safe, convenient way to get rid of the prescription drugs you no longer use. The Drug Enforcement Administration is sponsoring the sixth annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, April 27. Local collection centers will be open around the area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in police stations, community centers and other locations.
"The DEA program is a fantastic idea because until this point, people have not had a known way to get rid of their unwanted, unneeded and potentially dangerous medication," says Dr. John Dooley with Foxhall Internists in Northwest D.C.
The DEA says in the five previous events, more than 2 million pounds of prescription medications were turned in.
It is easy to find the closest center. Enter a zip code or home address in the search tool on the DEA website, and the website will provide a list of all collection points nearby.
Dooley says a lot of people don't know what to do with their unused prescription drugs, and this is an easy option.
"You don't have to worry about the safety of disposal or mixing it with anything. You just bring it to the site and it is taken care of," he says.
For those taking part in the program, it's a great impetus to "spring clean" the medicine cabinet.
According to Dooley, the first items to go should be unused or expired medications that can be abused or cause harm to children, such as unneeded narcotics and stimulants.
Other drugs of concern are potent pain killers, such as well as Ritalin -- a drug that is usually prescribed for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but has become one of the most abused drugs across the country.
Dooley says check the expiration dates on all medicines. Prescription drugs past their prime should be tossed. However, some of the most common over-the-counter drugs, like ibuprofen and allergy medications, can be used for up to a year after the pull-date has passed.
Getting rid of unneeded medications though National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day also helps to ensure that drugs do not end up in the surrounding environment.
There was a time when people were told to flush unwanted medicines down the toilet. Now, both the Food and Drug Administration and the Environment Protection Agency say pres cription drugs should never be flushed down the toilet -- except when specifically instructed to on the label. For almost all medications, both agencies say the best disposal method is the Take-Back program.
The second best solution is to mix the drugs with cat litter or coffee grounds, put the mixture in a sealed container and throw the mixture in the trash.
Follow @WTOPLiving on Twitter.
© 2013 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.