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Your Health

Do you know what’s hiding in your medicine cabinet?

Mar 14 2016

Are unused drugs hanging out in your medicine cabinet? Get rid of them. That’s the message from drug enforcement officials across the country, who have been collecting unused medicines during National Prescription Drug Take-Back day every year for a decade. The event is part of a nationwide campaign to combat the dangers hiding in people’s medicine cabinets – like potentially addictive painkillers.

Medicine cabinets can be a source of illicit drugs for children, leading to misuse and even possibly addiction.

Getting unused opioids like OxyContin out of homes is an important public health goal, said Dr. Hyong Un, Aetna’s chief psychiatric officer. “We tend to accumulate these types of drugs and not dispose of them,” Un said. “A parent’s medicine cabinet can be a source of illicit drugs for children and this in turn can lead to misuse and even possibly addiction. So it’s very important to try to eliminate supplies that are not needed anymore.”

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says the level of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. is “alarming… as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.” Getting rid of the drugs can be a challenge because “Americans do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicine, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away – both potential safety and health hazards,” the agency said.

Of course, you don’t need to wait if there’s no collection in your community. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a good tip sheet on how to dispose of expired or unwanted medications safely.