FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 19, 2012) -- It's not uncommon for people to have mostly empty prescription bottles hiding in the back of the medicine cabinet. Perhaps it's the cough syrup left over after a sinus infection last year, a few pain pills a Family member didn't take when recovering from surgery or a bottle of medication left unused after a physician prescribed something new.

Whatever the medication, Prescription Take Back Day April 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is a safe and easy way to dispose of it in the proper way, according to Jesse Hunt, Fort Rucker's drug abuse prevention coordinator.

The national initiative, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration, provides a way for people across the country to turn in expired, unwanted or unused controlled substances and other medication for destruction by the DEA, he said.

Last October, Americans turned in more than 377,000 pounds during a similar nationwide event, Hunt said, referencing the DEA website.

Around Fort Rucker, residents can turn in unused medication at the Fort Rucker Post Exchange Mall, the Daleville Grocery Outlet, Enterprise Morgan Square, Ozark Wal-Mart and the Dothan Police Station, he said. At each drop-off point, a law enforcement officer will guard the discarded medication. In addition, at the PX on post, a pharmacy representative will be present to answer questions.

"It's literally you've got some old medicine and throw it in the box," Hunt said. "You're not going to be asked your name, how you got it or why you have it. It's an anonymous-type deal."

Disposing of medication improperly is bad for the environment, but leaving unused medication at home can be dangerous, too. "If you've got stuff in the cabinet, it's an attractive item for children," he said. "And senior adults have senior moments. We have some adults who don't wait until they are seniors to have senior moments … it's a challenge for people like me to go through and clean out my medicine cabinet."

Hunt said many people will keep unused medication to avoid a trip to the pharmacy, but he recommends disposing of any medication that is more than a year old.

"After about a year, many medications tend to lose their effectiveness and they don't do what they were originally intended to do," he explained. "In the meantime, they are attractive containers for someone who is feeling bad who says, "I don't care what's in here, I'm going to take it because anything is going to be an improvement over the way I feel now.' And so they take the medication which may in fact make them feel worse."

Other people may take old medicine in an attempt to self-medicate, but this can keep them from seeking medical care they actually need, said Amanda K. White, a staff pharmacist at Lyster Army Health Clinic.

"The best way to dispose of medications is to come to one of these turn-ins," she said, adding that other people, including children and pets, still have access to medication that is thrown in the trash. Plus, "it's not good for the environment."

The real goal of Prescription Take Back Day is to increase awareness about the dangers of prescription medication, Hunt said.

"This program has turned out to be a lot more effective than I thought it would be," he said. "I thought people would just throw their medication in the garbage but there are people who are concerned about our environment and want to dispose of things properly."

Page last updated Wed April 18th, 2012 at 15:40