Chances are that you’ve been prescribed medication to treat an illness, injury or ailment at some point during your lifetime. You may have used the entire prescription as directed or you may have missed a few doses, leaving the unused medication in your cabinet and forgetting about it. While this may seem harmless, keeping unused and/or expired prescription drugs can increase likelihood of misuse—from family members or shipmates using the leftover medication to treat a similar ailment, to using the medication too far beyond the dispense date. These and other forms of misuse can lead to administrative action for Sailors under Navy’s Zero Tolerance policy, posing significant risks to your career in addition your health, your family’s health and the environment.
This Saturday, October 22nd is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Take-Back Day is an opportunity for Sailors and families to turn in expired or unused prescription drugs to convenient local drop-off sites, anonymously and free of charge. The Military Health System recently announced establishment of a drug take-back program for its beneficiaries to enable safe disposal of medications at participating military treatment facilities (MTFs). While using a drop box at your local MTF is encouraged, collection sites in your local community will be available this Saturday to promote widest participation. To find a collection site near you, contact your local MTF or visit www.dea.gov. Last April, more than 447 tons of prescription drugs were collected at Take-Back Day sites operated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and its state and local partners.
During a psychological health crisis, easy access to means (methods used to inflict self-harm such as firearms, sharp instruments or medication) can increase likelihood of suicide related behavior. In fact, findings from the recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health reveal a strong association between prescription drug misuse and suicidal ideation. Anyone can be at risk of suicide, which is why it’s important to proactively ensure that commonly used means are stored securely at all times. By properly disposing of your expired or unused prescription drugs, you can promote both physical and psychological safety for you and your family.
Navy’s Prescription for Discharge campaign—an Every Sailor, Every Day campaign partner—provides educational resources to help Sailors and families use their prescription medication safely and responsibly. “Dispose Properly” is one of four steps that the campaign promotes to prevent misuse and abuse of prescription medication to safeguard Sailors’ health and careers:
- Take Correctly. Follow your doctor’s orders, and use only for the condition the medication was prescribed to treat. “Wrongful use” includes using a legitimately-prescribed medication more than 180 days after the dispense date, so only use medications within this timeframe.
- Report Promptly. Sailors must report medications prescribed outside of a Military Treatment Facility (MTF) within 10 days of dispensing to their respective medical department and be reevaluated by their Primary Care Manager (PCM) for continued use of the medication.
- Dispose Properly. Visit a Take-Back Day event to dispose of your unused medications. To dispose at home, before throwing your unused meds in the trash, place them in a small plastic bag with used coffee grounds (this destroys the medication and prevents further use by others). Cross out personal information on your prescription labels before disposing of the empty containers.
- Never Share. Never use another person’s prescription medication.
For more information, including additional ways to safely dispose of your unused prescription drugs, check out the Navy’s Prescription for Discharge campaign’s website and follow @USNavyNADAP on Facebook.
 Ford, J.A., Perna, D. (2015, December 1). Prescription Drug Misuse and Suicidal Ideation: Findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.