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BRANCH: Safely storing medicine can save lives
Tom Branch
Tom Branch

Safe storage of medications protects you and your family members from harm. 

Medicines that are not stored properly can result in accidental poisoning and overdoses. 

Every year, about 60,000 children go to the emergency room because they took medicine when an adult was not looking. If medications are not stored properly, they may not work as well or could become harmful. Preventing access to medicines means using safe storage, which can reduce the risk of overdoses, suicides and thefts.

Any medication, including those purchased over the counter, can be dangerous if taken incorrectly or by the wrong person. All medications should be stored securely in order to prevent your child or others from accessing them. 

When storing medications, remember these tips:

• Keep all medications out of reach and out of sight of children, even those with child-proof safety caps. 

• Do not store medicine in the bathroom that may be accessible by others in the home.

• Lock prescription and OTC drugs away in a medicine cabinet or lock box.

• Do not keep medication in your vehicle.

• Store medicines in their original, labeled containers.

• Close and put medication away after every use.

• Do not leave medicine on the counter or in a purse or diaper bag, even if it will need to be given again in a few hours.

• Do not save unused or unwanted prescription medicines for later use. Expired medication may no longer work and could be dangerous if consumed.

For more information about safe medication storage, visit  

If you believe someone may have accidentally taken medicine or vitamins not prescribed for them – even if you aren’t completely sure – please call the Georgia Poison Center right away at (800) 222-1222.

How to Dispose of Unused Medicines

After making a plan to safely store drugs, it’s important to remember to discard expired drugs or medications you no longer use. Your medicine should only be used by you as prescribed and then disposed of if no longer in date or part of your treatment. Even though a medication is safe for you, it might be harmful to someone else. The best way to dispose of your expired, unwanted or unused medicines is through a drug take back program.

Each year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in communities nationwide. This take-back program provides a safe place for expired, unwanted or unused medications to be properly discarded and prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths. 

Georgians yielded 7,112 pounds of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal as part of DEA’s recent Take Back Day held on October 24, 2020. To learn more about controlled substance public disposal locations in your community, visit 

Please safely dispose of expired, unwanted or unused medications and help your community prevent prescription drug abuse and theft. 

By visiting, you can find the Prescription Drug Drop Box that is closest to you. 

In Newton County, drop boxes are currently located at:

• Georgia State University Perimeter College (Police Department Lobby) 239 Cedar Lane Covington, GA 30014 Mon. – Fri. 8AM to 5PM

• Newton County Sheriff’s Office 15151 Alcovy Road Covington, GA 30014 Mon. – Fri. 8AM to 5PM 

Check with a pharmacist. Some pharmacies offer on-site medicine drop-off boxes, mail-back programs and other ways to help safely dispose of medications.

With prescription drug misuse on the rise, the methods outlined above can help us make our families and communities safer. In 2019, an average of 38 people died each day in the United States from overdoses involving prescription opioids, totaling more than 14,000 deaths. By storing and disposing of our personal medications properly, we protect the lives of those that matter most to us. 

Want to get involved in your drug-free community? Reach out to Newton County Drug Free Community Coalition and visit their website:  

Tom Branch is the Opioid Surveillance and Prevention Specialist for Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments. Tom has worked in the Public Safety sector for over 30 years and volunteers for multiple non-profits in the community.