You could call it spring cleaning. Many Tennesseans will be cleaning out their medicine cabinets Saturday and disposing of pills through area Drug Take Back events.
It’s where expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications are collected by law enforcement officers. The goal is to give people a safe and reliable way of disposing of medication.
Nearly 800 pounds of medicine were collected at last year’s Drug Take Back event according to Metro Drug Coalition. Deborah Crouse with MDC says it’s a way to make sure pills don’t get into the wrong hands.
“Everyone is different. They may just take it and use it, they may take it and sell it or it could potentially get into a child’s hand and they may think it’s candy,” Crouse said.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says it has collected more than 5,400 tons of expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications through 16 prior events.
Pharmacist Joshua Gass at Belew Drug says medications have an expiration date just like food.
“A lot of times when we have medications hanging around in the house, patients if they get under the weather or feel ill, they’re tempted to go through their medicine cabinet and see what they have. That can be bad because they may think an old drug in there may be for one thing, take it, and it’s for another thing and they could harm themselves,” said Gass.
While cleaning out your medicine cabinet is a safe idea, Gass says don’t flush medicine down the toilet.
“There are a lot of different medications out there and we don’t want them floating in the water supply. So drug takeback programs like this are a good way so we don’t pollute the water system,” he said.
At the heart of this though is the opioid epidemic. The Knox County District Attorney’s Office says in 2019 there have been 84 suspected overdose deaths, 26 of those just in April.
“Every little step that we can take makes a huge difference. Locking up your medicine, disposing your medicine, counting your pills all these things are measures we can take to fight this problem together,” said Crouse.
This year MDC is handing out a small number of medication lock boxes for people to keep in their home, as a way to make sure their pills stay safe from children or those with substance use disorders.
Substances not accepted at drug takeback events:
- Illicit or illegal drugs
- Insulin syringes or needles
- Asthma inhalers
- Iodine-containing medications
- Mercury-containing thermometers
You can find a location near you by clicking here or calling 1-800-882-9539.