Return Unused Medicine to Prevent Drug Abuse


Misuse of prescription medicines is a dangerous problem affecting Tennesseans. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that roughly 6.5% of 12-17 year olds in Tennessee have misused prescription drugs in the past year. And more than 1,000 people in Tennessee die each year from drug overdoses, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Many of those deaths could have been prevented if unused prescriptions had been disposed of properly.

In addition, prescription drug use can cause drug dependency in newborn babies. In 2013, almost 1,000 Tennessee newborns were diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a painful condition in which a baby has withdrawal symptoms after being exposed to prescription medications or illicit drugs that the mother used during pregnancy. Infants with NAS stay in the hospital longer than other babies (an average of two to four weeks), and they may have serious medical and social problems.

Protect your family from prescription drug abuse by safely discarding unwanted, unused and expired prescription drugs at designated drop-off locations.

How do I dispose of unused prescription drugs?

  1. Check your home (in medicine cabinets, under sinks, in kitchen drawers, in purses or bags, etc.) and check your car for any medicines that have expired, are no longer being taken or pose a threat to others if they are taken by accident or fall into the wrong hands.
  2. Remove the personal information label on the bottles.
  3. Bring your unused prescriptions in their original containers to an anonymous drop-off location in Tennessee. Find a take-back location near you.

How do I prevent prescription drug abuse at home?

Educate yourself. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any negative side effects of a prescription, and what to do if you notice those effects in yourself or a family member. Learn more about risk factors for substance abuse, and what to do if substance abuse is suspected.

Talk to your family. Always discuss prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications when talking about the dangers of substance abuse with your child. Prescription drug abuse is a widespread problem, and studies have shown many teens believe prescription drugs are safer to use than illegal drugs. Get more tips on how to discuss prescription drug abuse with your child from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

How do I prevent NAS?

Never take illegal drugs. If you are pregnant or think you may become pregnant, be aware of the risks involved when taking narcotic medication. You can become addicted, and if you become pregnant, your baby can be born addicted as well. Ask your doctor if there are other less risky medicines or alternative therapy options (such as physical therapy, counseling, exercise or chiropractic care) that would work for your health problem. Never share and never take someone else’s medication. Find out more about NAS.


Toll-free youth crisis hotlines: If you or your child is having a mental health or substance abuse crisis, call Tennessee’s statewide toll-free crisis hotline anytime at 855-CRISIS-1(855-274-7471). Your call is free and will be answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you have general questions about substance abuse or recovery, you can call the Tennessee REDLINE for free confidential information and referrals 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-889-9789.

You can also visit the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.