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National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Is April 27

Medications can be safely discarded at nearly 5,000 locations nationwide


spinner image woman's hand taking a prescription bottle out of a medicine cabinet with a number of prescriptions bottles in it
Tetra Images / Getty Images

​The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts its latest National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at nearly 5,000 locations nationwide.

During this time, anyone may anonymously dispose of old, unwanted or expired medications at a collection site. (Search for a nearby site here.)

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“The drug overdose epidemic in the United States is a clear and present public health, public safety, and national security threat,” the DEA said in a statement. “While the community does its part to turn in unneeded medications and remove them from potential harm, we are doing our part to further reduce drug-related violence.”

Held twice a year, this is the 26th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day since the program’s inception in 2010. Over that time, nearly 18 million pounds of drugs have been removed from circulation.

When medications are no longer needed and taken without a prescription or a doctor’s supervision, they can be as dangerous as street drugs or be a gateway to addiction. Nonmedical use of prescription drugs ranks second to marijuana as the most common form of drug abuse in America, according to the DEA.

Older adults are commonly prescribed multiple drugs — 42 percent of adults 65 and older take five or more drugs monthly, and at least 18 percent take 10 or more — and may be more likely than younger adults to possess unused or unwanted drugs, according to a 2019 report from the Lown Institute.

In response, AARP has provided guidance for older adults on throwing out old medications. 

Video: Disposing of Unwanted Medicine: Why it is Important

What types of drugs can be discarded?

Any tablets, capsules, patches and other solid forms of prescription drugs are accepted, along with vaping devices and cartridges if the lithium batteries are removed. Liquids (including intravenous solutions), syringes and other sharp items and illicit drugs are not accepted.

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For those who have prescription drugs they would like to dispose of on other days throughout the year, there are more than 13,000 locations where medications can be discarded safely, including pharmacies, hospitals and police stations. Some of them are taking part in this year’s Take Back Day. The public also has the option to drop off unwanted medications at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center. Check your local VA health facility for more information.

Although these programs are the best way to throw out old medications, some people don’t live near a take-back location. The DEA recommends they take the unwanted medications out of their bottles, mix them with something unappealing such as used cat litter or coffee grounds, and seal it all in a bag or disposable container before throwing it in the trash. 

For more information on proper drug disposal, visit the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) page of frequently asked questions.

Drug overdoses by the numbers

In 2022, drug overdose deaths hit an all-time high of 106,699 fatalities in one year, most commonly from opioids. That’s about 292 people per day, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A majority of those who misuse prescription drugs obtain them from a family member or friend. Teens often take them from medicine cabinets in the homes of friends and family members, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Video: How to Dispose of Unused Medicines

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