Clear out the medicine cabinet – it's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Last year, it collected 893,498 pounds of drugs.
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Saturday's a good day to clear out the medicine cabinet and get rid of any old or unused prescription drugs. It's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

That means there will be sites all over the country accepting prescription medications, no questions asked, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

You can click here to find a drop-off site near you. Most of them are police departments, but we have seen a few grocery stores on the list too.

The idea is to make sure medications are disposed of correctly, especially addictive medications like opioids.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration started this event in 2010. And last May, it collected a record amount of prescription medications – 893,498 pounds or 447 tons. Almost 6,000 pounds of drugs were collected in Minnesota. More than 62,000 pounds were collected in Wisconsin.

Fighting the opioid epidemic

Getting unnecessary drugs out of houses and off the streets is one way to fight the deadly opioid epidemic.

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows there were 572 drug overdose deaths in Minnesota in 2015 – that was up 11 percent from 2014, when there were 516. More than half of the deaths were due to prescription medications rather than street drugs.

And a study from earlier this year found that most women who abuse opioids – like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin – get the drugs from friends or relatives, not from a dealer.

If you’re struggling with addiction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a website that shows residential, outpatient and hospital inpatient treatment program locations.

Disposing of medications

Obviously, drug take-back days are easy ways to get rid of extra medications. But what if you can't make it? Or what if you have stuff you want to throw out later?

First of all, check the container the medications are in. The bottle or box may have specific disposal instructions.

If not, the Food and Drug Administration recommends reaching out to your local law enforcement, pharmacy and your garbage company to see if they offer drug take-back programs.

If you can't find a program, then the FDA says you generally should throw the drugs in the trash. However, you should take them out of their original container first, mix them with something gross (like old coffee grounds or kitty litter) to make them undesirable to other people and pets, then seal up the mixture in a baggie and throw it in the trash.

Some medications are considered especially dangerous if they get into the wrong hands, so the FDA recommends flushing those. You can see a list of drugs that should be flushed down the toilet here.

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