Prescription medications help many Americans live longer, healthier lives. But keeping unused or expired medicine in your home can be dangerous. Safely disposing of unwanted medications may prevent accidental poisoning of children or pets, or misuse or abuse by others. Proper disposal can also lessen the impact on those chemicals on the environment.

Drug take back options are the easiest way to make sure unused medications do not get into the wrong hands or harm the environment. In addition to National Drug Take Back Day events, year-round authorized collection sites are now available in many communities. These are usually located in pharmacies, hospitals or law enforcement agencies. RiverStone Health Pharmacy, along with pharmacies at the Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare, offer authorized collection sites available during normal pharmacy business hours. The pharmacies also staple tags to prescription pain medication describing the safe use and proper disposal of those medications. For a complete list of drug take back collection sites, go to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) website or call 1-800-882-9539.

If you don’t have a collection site in your area, you can dispose of most medications in your household trash using the following steps:

• Mix the medication with used coffee grounds or cat litter

• Then put the mixture in a sealed plastic bag or container

• Place the container in your household trash

You may also be able to buy medication deactivation pouches for disposing of unused medicines.

Some medications are extremely dangerous and come with instructions to flush unused portions down the toilet immediately if no drug collection site is available. These medications can cause harm, including death, and should not be dumped in household trash. Always follow the package instructions for these medicines. If you have questions about how to safely dispose of a medication you no longer need, call your pharmacist for guidance.

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Amy Moser, Pharm D., Board Certified Ambulatory Care Pharmacist and Clinical Pharmacist Practitioner with RiverStone Health, can be reached at 247.3330 or amy.mos@riverstonehealth.org.