By David Washburn
Senior Voice 

Remodeling, decluttering leads to de-medicating


June 1, 2018

Our household recently replaced a bathroom vanity cabinet, something long overdue. The process revealed something else long overdue – bottle after bottle of expired, unused, leftover prescription medications. They were in drawers, travel kits, on shelves. Inventorying them was like looking through years of health records, remembering this or that injury, infection, condition, you name it. Besides pills, there were prescription-strength inhalers, skin creams, syrups. Not something that should be lying around and yet there it all was, much more than I could have guessed.

The most recent annual national drug Take Back Day was April 28. According to the DEA, Alaska participated with 17 locations where people could drop off expired or leftover medications for disposal. And Alaskans did, to the tune of 4,182 pounds. Nationally, the event brought in over 949,046 pounds, or 474.5 tons. What a great opportunity and service. The next Take Back Day event will be on October 27, 2018.

Those of us who discover our drug caches between these events and would like to get rid of them have options. We can drop them off throughout the year at various authorized sites, listed and searchable by location on the Take Back Day website at Some of these locations are very easy to access, with secured dropboxes open 24 hours a day.

I checked with a pharmacy at a large chain grocery to see if they would take expired medications, and they said they do not. The clerk said he disposes of his own meds by mixing them in a plastic bag with used coffee grounds or kitty litter – to make them unpalatable to use —and throws them, sealed in the bag, in the trash. The FDA advises this approach, too, although for a small number of extremely high-risk medications, flushing down the toilet is recommended. For a list of these, and more information on drug disposal, visit the FDA website at

David Washburn is the Senior Voice editor.


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