The Right Prescription for Cleaning Out Your Medicine Cabinet

Do you drink expired milk? Most likely not!  So why would you take expired medications? If your prescription drugs are past the expiration date, taking them may be dangerous.

Ask yourself: Are expired medications collecting dust in my medicine cabinet?

If yes, it’s time for a cleanup and clean out. One option is to take your medications to a collection center near you on National Drug Take Back Day.

All medications have a “shelf-life” — the length of time the prescription drug will last at maximum effectiveness and safety. Beyond that date, your medication may become weak, which means you may not be getting the full effectiveness from the medication. Worse, expired medications may be unsafe. It’s just not a risk worth taking. The more medications you have around the higher the risk of abuse, misuse and accidental ingestion. 

To make it easier and more convenient to safely dispose of unwanted medication, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) is partnering with Walgreens to expand Walgreens Safe Medication Disposal Program. This partnership will increase the number of prescription drug takeback kiosks at Walgreens stores in 2018.

The Walgreens drug takeback kiosks provide a free, year-round solution to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescription medications. Members can take their extra or expired medications, including controlled substances and over-the-counter medications, to a Walgreens with a safe disposal kiosk and drop them in the kiosk. It’s as easy as dropping a letter into a mailbox. The kiosks are available during regular pharmacy hours.

When installations are complete, safe medication disposal kiosks will be available in 1,500 locations across the country. With this expansion, the Walgreens Safe Medication Disposal program has set a goal to collect an additional 300 tons of unwanted, unused or expired medication across the country in the next two years.

For a full list of Walgreens drug takeback kiosk locations, visit the Walgreens Store Locator.

If a Walgreens Safe Medication Disposal site is not near you, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines suggest the following alternatives:

  • Call your city or county government and ask whether your community has a drug take-back program or a central location for proper disposal of prescription drugs or other medications.
  • Follow the directions on the label or patient information brochure that comes with the medication. Do not flush your prescription drugs down the toilet unless the label directs you to.

If there are no instructions for disposal and no take-back programs in your community, you can throw your prescription drugs in the trash by taking the following steps:

  • Take the medication out of its containers and mix it with used coffee grounds, kitty litter or something else that will make the prescription drug unusable—do NOT crush the pills.
  • Put the whole mixture in a can or sealable bag so it does not leak out.
  • Finally, remove personal information from the empty medicine containers before recycling the containers. Scratch the labels off to make sure that no information remains.

Safe medication disposal is one of the ways to make sure medications are not accidentally used or intentionally misused by someone else, or pollute our ground or water resources. Give yourself a pat on the back for tidying up!

Last Updated 5/8/2018

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