Picture this scenario: After a minor dental surgery, your doctor prescribes a bottle of painkillers for you. However, after a day or two, you’re back in tip-top shape, leaving most of the prescription untouched. What do you do with all the extra pills? Many people do nothing.

Having old prescription drugs in your medicine cabinet might seem normal, but it’s not as harmless as you may think. Where there are drugs, there is potential for drug abuse. In the last decade, prescription pain medications have been responsible for more deaths in Utah than all other drugs combined, with about 7,000 opioid prescriptions filled every day in the state, according to Utah’s “Use Only As Directed” campaign.

Travis Guymon, a pharmacist at Utah Valley Hospital, explained that having leftover medication around the house is not only a danger to children and pets, but also to potential addicts: “If there’s controlled substances in the household that aren’t being used, then there is a potential that somebody could be seeking out those medications and could take them when they’re not intended to be used for them.”

That’s where the Medbox, or medical drop-off box, comes in. Doctors and pharmacists are hoping that boxes like this will help alleviate what some call the “opioid epidemic” in Utah. A big part of the problem is that people, who have legitimately prescribed painkillers, just don’t get rid of the extra, thinking it might come in handy later down the road.

Instead of holding onto those drugs, the motto to live by is “if you don’t use it, lose it.” There are, however, a couple of “don’ts” to keep in mind:

Don’t throw your bottles and boxes away in the trash – your sensitive personal information is printed on them.

Don’t flush the medication down the toilet – trace amounts could contaminate the ground water. And if you’re keeping your medication for a rainy day, don’t. You could harm yourself by using expired medication or the wrong dosage.

Although it would seem that the older the medication, the less effective it would be, Travis said it can be the other way around: “The longer the medication is expired, the more the ingredients will degrade and they could cause more harm to the individual.”

Drug disposal boxes are the safest way to go, and you can find them pretty easily in places like pharmacies and police departments.

The boxes are completely confidential and secure. Once they’re full, the pharmacy or police department ships the drugs off to a third-party company to dispose of the drugs safely according to federal regulations.

To find a Medbox near you, check your local pharmacy or go to useonlyasdirected.org and type in your zip code.

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