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Rx Drug Abuse Prevention/Safe Disposal of Medicine

Prescription Drug Abuse has become a major epidemic in the United States. Only marijuana ranks higher. People who abuse prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications think they are safe because they are not illegal. However, prescription (Rx) drugs are meant to be used only by the person to whom they are prescribed. Use by anyone else is extremely dangerous and potentially deadly.

The most abused medications are pain relievers (opioids) such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, percocet, methodone, codeine; sedatives which are central nervous system depressants (benzodiazapines) such as diazepam, lorazepam, midazolam, alprazolam; and central nervous system stimulants (amphetamine-like drugs) such as dextroamphetamine, amphetamine, methylphenidate. These drugs provide beneficial treatment for pain relief (opioids); to induce sleep, treat anxiety, prevent seizures (benzodiazapines); to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (amphetamine-like drugs) when properly used by the patient to whom they were prescribed. All of these medications can induce a euphoric state and can be addictive when abused. Central nervous system depressants can release inhibitions. Central nervous system stimulants are often abused by students to improve grades on tests by increasing cognition.

Most medications which are involved in drug abuse are initially sold with a legitimate prescription. They are then either given or sold by the prescription holder to someone else. In some cases, teenagers raid medicine cabinets to find medicine. From there, they may give the medicine to a friend, sell it to friends or drug dealers, or bring it to pharm parties where guests dump the medicine in a large bowl for attendees to take. There are areas in some cities where any type of medication can be purchased without a prescription.

Abuse of these drugs can lead to serious consequences including addiction. Opioids and benzodiazapines can cause death by respiratory depression. Amphetamine-like drugs can cause psychosis, seizures, and cardiovascular complications.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) holds two National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days each year to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs. This is the safest way to dispose of unneeded and expired medication and helps remove the temptation to abuse prescription drugs found in the home.


Safe Disposal of Medicine provides a responsible way to help prevent Rx and OTC medicine abuse, protect the environment and prevent identity theft.

Drug Abuse Prevention
Among young children who might ingest pills found around the house.
Among teenagers and young adults who may look for prescription medication in their home to use, share with friends or sell.

Environmental Protection
Do not flush.  This puts the medication directly into our rivers and streams.
Sewage treatment plants do not filter out all the medicine.
There are already measurable amounts of medication in our waterways.

Identity Theft Prevention
Properly remove labels from medicine containers prior to recycling.

To achieve these goals:

  • Keep an inventory of all medicine
  • Store all medicine in a secure place
  • Dispose of unneeded or expired medicine at a “take back” site or by following FDA guidelines
  • Take all medicine exactly as prescribed, never give your medicine to someone else
  • Talk to children about the dangers of Rx and OTC medicine abuse

Use “Take Back” Programs such as:

  • “Dispose My Meds” at pharmacies
  • At Sheriffs’ offices and Police Stations
  • DEA events
  • American Medicine Chest Challenge
  • County Medicine Collection Days

The FDA recommends these steps only when drug “take back” efforts are not immediately available.

  1. Place pills in a sealable container, such as a plastic bag.
  2. Mix with coffee grounds, sawdust, kitty litter, etc.
  3. Seal the bag and place in the trash.
  4. Remove personal information from empty medicine containers before recycling.

The FDA maintains a list of recommendations on this topic and lists those few medications that should be flushed when “take back” efforts are unavailable.  Drug manufacturers may also provide information.  You can also ask your healthcare provider   and your pharmacist.

AMA Alliance Rx Drug Abuse Prevention Policies

State and County Alliance Rx Prevention Projects

Sample Documents:
Sample Brochure
Sample Poster
Sample PowerPoint


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