Rx Prep: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

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National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is October 23

Many of us have a medicine cabinet in our homes. It may contain first-aid supplies, personal hygiene items, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and other personal needs.

Keep tabs on your medicines to help you keep them out of the wrong hands. Each year in the United States, more than 1 million people visit emergency departments for an adverse drug event. An adverse drug events (ADE) is when someone is harmed by a medicine.(1)

Blood thinners, antibiotics, diabetes drugs, and opioid analgesics are the leading cause of emergency department visits for ADEs.(2)

Practicing safe storage and proper disposal of prescription medicines can help keep your family safe and healthy.

Up and Away

Toddlers can be harmed if they get into medicines when no adult is watching. Approximately 50,000 children younger than 5 years old go to emergency departments each year for an ADE.(3)

Emergency visits for kids and pets, too, are preventable if people put medicines up and away after every use. Here are some safe medicine storage practices:

  • Put medicine and vitamins up and away and out of children’s reach and sight.
  • Put medicine and vitamins away every time.
  • At home or away, keep medicines in their original, child-resistant containers.
  • Never leave loose pills or liquid medicine out on a counter, table, or child’s bedside.
  • Lock the safety cap.
  • Teach your children about medicine safety.
  • Ask guests to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicine in them out of children’s reach and sight when they are in your home.
  • Prepare for an emergency. Create an Emergency Action Plan that includes important contact information, such as phone numbers for your physician, pharmacist, veterinarian, and the Poison Control Center: 800-222-1222.(4)

Learn more about safe medicine storage.

Drug disposal

It’s important that you safely dispose of expired, unwanted, or unused prescription medicines. There are several ways to do that.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a semiannual event held in October and April. The campaign teaches people how to dispose of medicines and provides safe and secure locations where they can dispose of their medicines.(5)

The best way to dispose of most types of medicines is to drop them off at a drug take back location.(6) This may be your local pharmacy or police station.

There are other drug disposal options if you cannot get to a Take Back Day location. Flush medicines on the FDA flush list down the toilet. If a child, adult, or pet in your home ingests, touches, misuses, or abuses a medicine on the flush list, they could suffer serious consequences or die.(7)

Dispose of medicines that are not on the flush list in your home trash.

  1. Mix medicines (liquid or pills; do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or coffee grounds.
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
  3. Throw away the container in your trash at home.
  4. Remove personal information from the label of empty medicine bottles and packaging. Throw away or recycle the bottle or packaging.(8)

Learn more about the safe disposal of medicines.



  1. https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/basics.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/program_focus_activities.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/parents_childrenadversedrugevents.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety/protect/campaign.html
  5. https://takebackday.dea.gov/
  6. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/safe-disposal-medicines/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know
  7. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know/drug-disposal-fdas-flush-list-certain-medicines
  8. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know/drug-disposal-dispose-non-flush-list-medicine-trash


Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

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One comment on “Rx Prep: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    As a nurse working on a Med/Surg floor that deals primarily with older patients I couldn’t agree more with your post. I see a good amount of patients that come in for adverse drug events. I can’t speak for the younger population because I don’t personally work with them. However, I can see how nearly 1.3 million people are seen in the emergency department annually (CDC, 2017). It’s amazing that this number is so high for what seems like such a preventable issue. I think we should teach the communities about the up drug disposal and up and away programs. If people were taugh more in depth about both of these stratagies, I think we would see a significant drop in emergency room visits for adverese drug events.

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Page last reviewed: October 25, 2021
Page last updated: October 25, 2021