Prescription Drug Disposal in Florida
Do you have medications in your house that were prescribed ages ago, but for some reason never used up? That could mean tragedy waiting to happen.
The Dangers of Unused Prescription Drugs
After a medication passes its official expiration date, chemical composition may change enough to trigger new and unpredictable effects. Humidity can speed up this process, so prescriptions stored in bathroom medicine cabinets may reach this point more quickly. An additional risk (with any drug, but especially with one forgotten for months) is that someone besides the original prescription recipient may find the medicine and take it, whether deliberately or by accident.
There are at least four ways that even an unexpired prescription can do harm in the latter case:
- Since prescriptions are formulated for individuals, there’s no guarantee on how they might affect someone else, even a person with the same symptoms.
- “Childproof” caps don’t always live up to their name; and toddlers capable of circumventing a cap are also capable of eating the container’s full contents. Over 50,000 U.S. children a year wind up in emergency rooms after sampling prescription meds (with about 6.6 percent of the population living in Florida, which extrapolates to over 3,000 children statewide).
- Even adolescents may take a parent or grandparent’s prescription if tempted to experiment.
- Worst of all, hundreds of thousands of people are addicted to opiates, benzodiazepines, or some other prescription drug. They may seek out and take others’ unused medications.
National Prescription Medication Take Back Day
While some people may decide to get rid of medications through the trash, that’s no guarantee of safe disposal. Unfortunately, animals and those seeking drugs can find medication even after it’s been thrown into the garbage. For this reason, no medication should be disposed of in a public garbage can. Flushing pills down the toilet isn’t recommended either: although some drugs are officially “approved” for flushing, few water treatment facilities are equipped to remove prescription drugs from the city water supply.
When in doubt, turn to the experts to get rid of your old pills. If you’re reading this in April, your timing is right for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day (April 30), when law enforcement offices throughout the country set up collection sites for safe disposal of unneeded medications. (Check the DEA website for an official collection site near you. As of this writing, there are sites in Juno Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, and the town of Jupiter, plus over 150 other Florida locations.)
Additionally, there are other “take back” options open year round. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy maintains an online Drug Disposal Locator Tool that can be searched for recommended locations. At least six such locations are convenient to the Juno Beach area. You can also ask your own pharmacy, doctor, or public health office how to safely dispose of leftover prescription drugs.
Closing Note: Medication and Addiction
If you suspect that your child, grandchild, spouse, sibling, or other loved one is addicted to prescription medicines, do not dispose of them. That won’t solve the larger problem, and your loved one may suffer dangerous withdrawal symptoms if their supply is cut off abruptly. Get advice from a doctor, therapist, or intervention specialist if you have addiction in the family. And if a family member is already receiving addiction treatment, remove your own prescription drugs (which may tempt the family member to relapse) from shared household areas.
Finally, as an extra precaution, black out prescription numbers and identifying information before disposing of medicine bottles, lest someone find them and obtain a “refill” under false pretenses. Do your part to keep not only old medications, but all dangerous drugs, from harming anybody.
Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction
If you have an addiction to prescription medication or any other drug, you aren’t weak if you can’t “just stop.” Quitting on your own is extremely difficult—and, with some drugs, unwise to the point of life-endangering. Medically supervised treatment is always the best option for safe and reasonably comfortable recovery; and if you live in the South Florida region, we hope you’ll consider Beach House for your detox and follow-up care. Contact us to learn more!
- “Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines.” (U.S. Food & Drug Administration)
- “Emergency Department Visits Involving the Accidental Ingestion of Opioid Pain Relievers by Children Aged 1 to 5.” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- “Overdoses rise in South Florida as people struggle with isolation from pandemic.” (South Florida Sun Sentinel, 09/13/2020)
- “Prescription drug abuse among older adults is harder to detect.” (Tampa Bay Times, 06/10/2016)
- “Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics.” (National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics)
- “Prescription Drugs Are Contaminating Florida’s Waterways.” (EcoWatch.com)
- “Take Back Day.” (Drug Enforcement Administration)
- “These kits safely get rid of old prescription drugs.” (Tampa Bay Times, 04/02/2021)
- “Where and How to Dispose of Unused Medicines.” (U.S. Food & Drug Administration)