National Medication Disposal Day

By Barbara Sattler

Ms. Barbara Sattler is on the Board of the Transverse Myelitis Association. While a city court magistrate in Tucson, Arizona, Barbara contracted Transverse Myelitis. She took four months to recover before returning to work and was later appointed to the superior court bench. Barbara retired in 2008. Since retirement she has written three novels and has committed all her publications’ proceeds to SRNA. Barbara’s books are available for purchase on, and she has a blog.

October 28th is National Medication Disposal day. You may wonder why you should care. At least on National Pancake day you get a free pancake.

The US is in the midst of an opioid crisis. In 2016 more than 64,000 Americans died from overdoses of opioids including heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and related drugs. Every year the count rises. With the introduction of Fentanyl and other drugs newly available (some of which are 100 times more powerful than morphine), the number will only climb. A ten-year-old boy recently died after touching a towel which had traces of Fentanyl. Some of these drugs are so powerful only a few grams or less can lead to overdose. Police officers (and police drug dogs) have died of accidental overdose when they failed to take precautions such as wearing gloves and a mask when having contact with these drugs. Fortunately, antidotes such as naloxone (narcan) can be administered to people and dogs to prevent death if administered in time and correctly.

Opioid addiction is not other people’s problem. Addiction cuts across sex, age, race, and class lines. A housewife with a college degree or an older adult who has had a productive work history is as likely as anyone else to become an opioid addict.

Many children first experiment with drugs between the ages of 10 and 12. They get them, not from older school mates, gangs or ‘pushers,’ but from their parents’ medicine cabinet. In a popular teen fad, called pharming, kids raid their parents’ medicine cabinet, put the drugs in a bowl and randomly divide them up and ingest them. If they like the high, they continue to try and get prescription drugs. When they are unable to afford them, they look for the lower-priced alternative, heroin. Almost everyone who uses heroin is addicted from the first use.

Even if it’s not your kid, it may be your niece, nephew, or one of their friends or your friends (adults also raid medicine cabinets).

You can save lives by disposing of pills you no longer need and safely storing the ones you still use. Make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands, including burglars who look for drugs and know where to find them. Handling drugs safely may also prevent an accidental overdose by a curious kid or hungry dog.

What can you do to save lives?

Keep your narcotic medication in a safe, not the medicine cabinet or next to your bed. If you don’t have one, you can purchase a safe for medication fairly cheaply. Check stores like Target, pharmacies or online.

If you don’t want the rest of your medication, find a safe way to dispose of it.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to safely rid yourself of drugs. If you throw them away in the original container, they may be stolen or fall into the hands of animals or children.

Throwing them down the toilet is an option, but some may contaminate the water system. You can look on the internet to find out if the drug can be safely flushed. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) position on this issue is it is always better to flush drugs than keep them around.

If you want to throw drugs into the trash follow these steps. Take them out of the container. Put them in a plastic bag with water which will help dilute them and add some substance which will keep kids and dogs away, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. I use dog poop.

The DEA has set up sites in each state where you can dispose of unwanted drugs. You can check the DEA website for that information. Usually disposal sites are in police or sheriff substations.