The DEA Wants Your Old Drugs — Stat!


Check those prescriptions in your medicine cabinet. If they're expired, you can safely turn them in this Saturday during the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day may not be a national holiday, but it is a day worth marking on the calendar. And this year it's April 28. That's this Saturday. And it's a day you can safely take any prescription drugs to a local drop-off center, and the police will take them off your hands and dispose of them — without any questions asked.

Why should you care? According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 6.4 million Americans abused controlled prescription drugs in 2015 alone. And oftentimes, those drugs come from the medicine cabinets of their family and friends. Maybe you had surgery or a major injury, and you were sent home with a prescription for strong painkillers, even opioids. Now you're healed and feeling better, but you still have pills left in the prescription. Even if they're long expired, they should be disposed of properly.

But why should you bother dropping off expired prescription drugs to law enforcement rather than simply tossing them in the trash — or even flushing them down the toilet? It turns out, those prescription drugs that end up in the garbage can actually contribute to drug abuse and even overdoses. Even if no one fishes them out of the trash for their own use, the drugs can make it to the local waterways to poison our drinking water and fisheries.

So the DEA wants to make it simple for you. The agency's website has a handy form so you can find a collection site near you. Just enter your ZIP code or your county, city and state to find the nearest location — usually a police station. They'll be taking drop offs between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 28.

If you have prescription drugs to get rid of but can't — or don't want to — go to a police station with them, you can safely dispose of them in other ways. The best option is to put the pills in a sealable plastic bag with something no one wants to eat or touch. Used coffee grounds or cat litter are ideal, the grosser the better.

This year marks the 15th National Take Back Day, though communities and organizations often schedule days with their local law enforcement agencies. At the last nationwide event in October 2017, nearly 500 tons (453 metric tons) of prescription drugs were collected at more than 5,000 sites across the United States.


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