Saturday Is Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
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Saturday Is Prescription Drug Take-Back Day


On Saturday, consumers across the nation will have the chance to collectively give their unused or expired prescription drugs back. Why? Well, at least partially to help fight drug addiction, particularly among teenagers (duh, obviously).


The Reasoning

The press release notes that more than four in 10 teenagers who have abused a prescription drug got it from their parents’ medicine cabinet. So tomorrow, on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, parents and everyone else can safely dispose of (aka “take back”) their unused prescription meds.

Through prior Take-Back events, more than “3.4 million pounds of medication have been removed from circulation and kept out of kids’ hands.” At last year’s event, people turned in 647,211 pounds (324 tons) of expired and unwanted medications at the 5,000+ take-back sites.

Most folks concur that this sort of program is a safe and positive thing—a constructive, proactive attempt to help offset the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, which is definitely on the rise among youths. In 2013, it was found that one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime.

Auto-Refill: Part of the Problem

Pharmacies tracking the returned drugs claim that many of the unused meds result from automatic prescription refill systems, which alert customers via text or voicemail that their refill is due and ready for pickup. These auto-refill situations  are super-convenient, sure—I just asked about enrolling in a mail-order program at Kaiser yesterday. They’re popular because they cut out the need for a patient to keep track of their refills and they allow patients to skip the annoying wait times and pharmacy lines.

But as far as downsides go, auto-refill systems have got those, too. The software most doctors use with the electronic prescribing systems is “not designed to send discontinuations to the pharmacy”—in other words, it’s all on you to notify your pharmacy if a drug has been discontinued. This means that if you don’t notify your pharmacist about a discontinued drug, they’ll potentially keep doling out no-longer-used medications, which obviously isn’t the safest thing in the world.

If you want to participate in the Take-Back Day, find out about the thousands of drop-off locations here. And just a reminder: if you don’t do take-back but you’re trying to dispose of your own unused or expired meds, some guidelines for doing that safely can be found right here.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.