Saturday is Prescription Drug Take Back Day

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, a time to rid your home of unwanted, unused or expired prescription medicines for pets and people.

“Medications can save lives; they can also really harm people if they’re used inappropriately,” said Bonnie Levin, the assistant vice president of pharmacy for MedStar Health.



“And so this event, which we do twice a year, is really a good way just to remind people that medications can be dangerous for you or for a loved one. And, keeping only the ones that you really need in a place that’s safe is really important,” she said.

About half the people who misuse prescription pain relievers get them from friends or family members, and overdose deaths of people taking opioids skyrocketed during the pandemic.

Medicines not currently in use can pile up for any number of reasons and Levin said they need to go because they pose a risk of being misused either intentionally or inadvertently.

“You’re at risk of taking the wrong one. You know, if you line up four medicine bottles, what are the chances you’ll pick up the wrong one?” she asked. “We worry about that.”

Held by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Items that will be collected include tablets, capsules, patches and other solid forms of prescription drugs. Vape pens and e-cigarettes will be collected, but only with batteries removed.

Item that will not be accepted on behalf of the DEA include:

  • Liquids
  • Intravenous solutions
  • Needles
  • Compressed cylinders, such as asthma inhalers
  • Medications containing iodine
  • Illicit drugs

To protect privacy, peel off labels on prescription bottles that identify the patient, or black them out using a permanent marker.

Three MedStar hospitals participating in take back day will have pharmacists available to answer any questions you might have about your medications. They are MedStar Washington Hospital Center, MedStar Montgomery Medical Center and in Baltimore MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital.

You can find a drug take back day collection site close to you on the DEA website by entering a ZIP code, county or state, and by indicating whether you want the search to include sites within a radius of 10, 25, 50 or 100 miles.

Year-round receptacles are available at area hospitals, pharmacies, businesses and police departments. You can search for one close to you on the DEA website.

“They look like mailboxes. And so you can clean out your cabinet anytime and take them there,” Levin said.

Drugs flushed down toilets can be harmful to the environment.

If take back options are not easily available, you can find advice on how to dispose of items responsibly at home, if appropriate, on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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