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How to safely dispose of medications, needles and sharps


Disposing of unused medications safely and appropriately can be confusing. 

Novant Health will help by providing “medicine take back containers” on April 22, National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Why it matters: Prescription drugs are the third-most abused illegal substance after marijuana and cocaine, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics

 According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.3 million people over 12 reported misusing a prescription pain reliever in the prior year. 

Every 10 minutes, a child goes to an emergency room for medication poisoning, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

“If you put them in the trash, it’s still accessible for members of the community to get into, whether that be your pets, or child at home, or sanitation workers in the community,” Gabby Duncan, a second-year pharmacy resident at Novant, said.”It’s just not safe.” 

Flushing them down the drain also poses a safety risk.

“It can still end up in the water supply,” Duncan said. 

Credit: Novant Health

The safest way to dispose of unused medications is to go to a medication dropbox. 

“Taking the extra step to properly dispose of medication can greatly reduce the risk of medications ending up in the wrong hands or polluting our communities’ drinking water,” said Andrea Reed, Novant Health vice president of pharmacy services, in a press release

Anyone in the community may use the containers free of charge to eliminate unwanted and expired prescription or over-the-counter medications.

These containers are located in five hospital lobbies around and near Charlotte:  

  • Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center, 10030 Gilead Road, Huntersville
  • Novant Health Matthews Medical Center, 1500 Matthews Township Parkway, Matthews
  • Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center, 8201 Healthcare Loop, Charlotte
  • Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, 200 Hawthorne Lane, Charlotte
  • Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, 612 Mocksville Ave., Salisbury

Those unable to make it this Saturday can visit to find the closest drop box. 

Syringes, sharps, needles and other biohazard materials are not accepted at drop boxes for safety reasons.

Instead, any thick plastic container, like a laundry detergent container, can be used to dispose of sharp items. If the container is sealed tightly, it can be thrown away in the trash.


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