Safe Storage and Disposal of Your Prescription Medications

By Connie Putnam | Jun 01, 2016

Prescription medication abuse is on the rise. Between 6 and 7 million Americans have abused prescription drugs in the past month, and every day 2000 teens abuse a prescription drug for the first time. Prescription medications are a part of our culture and as a result teens normalize this form of drug abuse, they take these medications for legitimate reasons with or without a prescription, they purposely abuse these drugs to get high, and they’re often unaware that these activities can lead to disastrous results. Substance use disorders can happen to anyone, so taking preventative steps with your medications can be valuable for not only you, but your family and the entire community. Examples of frequently abused prescription medications: painkillers (OxyContin, Vicodin), stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin), sedatives and tranquilizers (Valium, Xanax).

Here’s what you can do: keep track of all of prescription medications and where you keep them in your home, keep your medications locked up with other valuables, dispose of expired or unwanted medications, pick a place that children cannot reach, put medicines up and away after each use, make sure the safety cap is locked, teach your children about medicine safety, and tell your guests about medicine safety (keep purses or bags with medicine in them up and away). Talk to teens about prescription drug abuse: teens learn by example, when they see their parents, siblings, or grandparents taking a pill – even responsibly – it doesn’t seem so bad, many teens report that their parents have the greatest influence on their drug use attitudes and decisions, kids who continue to learn about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50% less likely to use drugs than those who are not taught about these dangers.

How do you dispose of your expired, unused, or unwanted medications? There are medication take back days every spring and fall (usually April and September), and the Knox County Sheriff’s Department has a medication drop box where you can bring unused or expired medications throughout the entire year. Remember not to flush your unused or unwanted meds; medications flushed down the drain are a danger to the aquatic environment and wildlife. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove medications during the process. Therefore, disposing of medications properly will reduce the overall risk of exposure to you, your family, and the environment.

For more information you can contact Kelsey Arsenault, substance abuse prevention specialist at Knox County Community Health Coalition at (207) 236-6313 or

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