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South Salt Lake Journal

April is Clean Out the Medicine Cabinet month

Apr 03, 2022 07:31PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Medications stack up. April is Clean Out the Medicine Cabinet month. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

April is Clean Out the Medicine Cabinet month not by a governor's proclamation, which is the usual way, but it is by state code. Code Title 63G, Chapter 1, Part 4, Section 401 says, "The month of April shall be commemorated annually as Clean Out the Medicine Cabinet Month."


According to the code, this is done every year to "(a) recognize the urgent need to make Utah homes and neighborhoods safe from prescription medication abuse and poisonings by the proper home storage and disposal of prescription and over-the-counter medications, and (b) educate citizens about the permanent medication disposal sites in Utah listed on that allow disposal throughout the year."

The problem

In the U.S., the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that 10.1 million people misused opioid prescriptions in the past year. In 2019, 70,630 people died from a drug overdose. In 2017, HHS declared a public health emergency to address the national opioid crisis.

In Utah, the website reports, "Drug poisoning deaths [aka overdose] have outpaced deaths due to firearms, falls, and motor vehicle crashes in Utah."

Opioids are commonly prescribed to handle moderate to severe pain with anything from dental work to cancer treatment. They work, but they also get forgotten.

For example, the doctor prescribes 10 tablets for back surgery, but you only use five because you start to feel well. What do you do with the remaining five? Most people just keep them in the medicine cabinet. They forget about them.

The Use Only As Directed campaign reports "74% of Utahns with an opioid addiction get them from a friend or family member." reports one in four teens has misused or abused prescription drugs. Most get them from the family medicine cabinet.

Opioids are highly addictive. Studies show that 80% of people who use heroin start with legal prescription opioids. So, it is not unusual for people needing a fix to search friends' medicine cabinets. Sometimes, a family member will do the same.

Throw out

Throw out is part of a three-part solution for the opioid crisis. This solution covers all prescribed and over-the-counter medications.

The best way is to use an Rx drop box. They are typically located at pharmacies and police stations. For example, South Salt Lake Police Department (2835 S. Main St.) has an Rx drop box. Often, special drop-off locations are added during April.

One crucial way to not dispose of expired or unused medication is to put them in the trash or flush them down the toilet. Unfortunately, this action can affect groundwater or fish.

While some Walgreens and CVS stores have a Rx drop box, all of them have an alternative. DisposeRx packets are available on request from the pharmacy at no cost. They are an environmentally friendly at-home way to dispose of medications. A patented solidifying material is put into drug vials or bottles and shaken. The drugs are dissolved and are ready for the trash.

A safe way to do it at home is to mix the medications (do not crush) with items such as kitty litter, a soiled diaper, or used coffee grounds. Then, put the mixture in a sealed plastic bag in your trash. It is also essential to remove or scratch out all information on the prescription labels before throwing out empty bottles.