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Keep drugs out of reach of kids and pets

Right now, chances are you’ve got a bottle or two of old or expired medications you no longer use in your medicine cabinet. These pills, patches, inhalers and creams not only clutter our bathroom and kitchen cabinets, they can also cause serious harm if they fall into the wrong hands—especially if they’re opioids. 

“Potent opioids are sometimes prescribed to treat pain after surgery or to treat conditions like cancer, but if they fall into the wrong hands they can cause serious harm,” said pharmacist Eric Wright, senior investigator and director of the Center for Pharmacy Innovations and Outcomes at Geisinger. “It’s very important to dispose of opioids properly if they’re expired or unused.”

But before you throw half-full bottles of opioids in your bathroom trash, you should know there’s a right way and a wrong way to get rid of all prescription medications, including opioids. 

The best way to get rid of opioids and other prescription medications is through community take-back programs and drop boxes.  

“Taking unused or old medications to a take-back program or drop box ensures they’re disposed of properly without harming people, animals or the environment,” said Wright. 

The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events twice a year, setting up collection sites throughout communities across the country for safe disposal of prescription drugs. 

Look for DEA-authorized collectors for locations to drop off your old medications—these sites may be retailers, hospitals, clinic pharmacies and law enforcement locations. Some offer mail-back programs or drop boxes. You can visit the DEA website or call 800-882-9539 to find your local authorized collector. 

In addition, Geisinger has installed medication disposal boxes at several pharmacies and hospitals across central and northeastern Pennsylvania. These boxes are designed to collect medications in the original bottles or packaging and are secure from the public. For a listing of sites near your area, search

“There are many ways to safeguard families from medications in your home, and take-back programs are proven method to assure these drugs do not get misused or hurt our environment. If you’re ever unsure of how to get rid of medications you don’t need any more, ask your pharmacist what you can do,” said Wright.

For more information about medication disposal locations in your county, click here.
Medsafe medication take-back boxes offer patients a safe way to dispose of unwanted or expired medications.
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