Prescription Drug Disposal

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By: Jennifer Husmann, Certified Prevention Specialist

Fall is almost here.  Besides spring, fall is often the time when we do a little deeper cleaning in our homes before we “hunker down” for the winter.  This is a great time to clean out your extra, unwanted or expired medicines. Most prescription drugs that are abused come from friends or family, so cleaning out medicine cabinets can save lives.  

Prescription drug abuse is Iowa’s fastest-growing form of substance abuse, and addiction to powerful pain relievers is also fueling more heroin use. With Prescription pain pills and heroin both falling into the opioid drug category, the combination of the two drugs is contributing to an increase in opioid-related overdose deaths in Iowa and the U.S.  Many people become addicted to prescription drugs because of the ease of obtaining the drugs such as using a family member’s leftover prescriptions. Once addicted some of these individuals may then eventually move to heroin to fulfill that addiction.

There are a few steps you can take to carefully handle your prescriptions from the time they are prescribed until they are used or you are done with them. The first step is to ask your prescriber to follow the CDC guidelines when prescribing opioids.  Often after a surgery or injury, only very few prescription pills are actually needed yet at 30 day supply is sometimes prescribed. Asking for only a few days’ worth will cause less waste and less risk.

Secondly, it is important to lock up and monitor your prescriptions. Not only are opioids of great concern, but really all medicines can be misused.  Stimulants, like ADHD medicines, and sedatives like Xanex or Valium, are addictive and particularly sought after for misuse. Medicine lock boxes can be purchased at many stores or on-line.

When a medicine is no longer being used, it is highly recommended not to store it for later use. There are a few options when you are cleaning out your cabinets. First, if you have a sample medicine that is still sealed or in the box, or a blister pack of pills that has unopened pills, you may be able to donate these to the free medical clinics.  Call ahead to the Community Health Free Clinic or His Hands Medical Clinic in Cedar Rapids to see if and when they can accept medicines. There is also a program in Iowa called SafeNetRx, a drug donation repository, where individuals, pharmacies, and health facilities can donate prescriptions that are not expired and not at risk of expiring soon.  SafeNetRx does not accept controlled substances like opioids, sedatives or stimulants, but other unopened drugs are accepted and then can be donated to those who cannot afford prescriptions. Go to to learn more. Many local pharmacies participate in this program and also participate in Iowa’s “EcoReturns” program for disposal of non-controlled prescriptions.

We are fortunate in our area to have many permanent drop-off boxes, mostly at law enforcement agencies, to dispose of all types of prescriptions all year round. To find the drop-off box near you visit Also, the DEA hosts a National Rx Take Back Day every fall and spring, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The next one is October 28.  Look for upcoming announcements as to where those extra drop-off sites are located.  Citizens wishing to utilize the medication drop boxes are asked to place all medications in sealed non-breakable containers and are requested to not include any “sharps” (syringes or lancets) or any other item that could cause injury to the police department staff servicing the drop boxes.

For more information, feel free to call ASAC Prevention Services at 319-390-1884.

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