Sunday, October 2, 2011

How to Dispose of Leftover Medicine

Leftover Pills Should Not Be Flushed
Photo from http://www.photoxpress.com/

What do you do when you have old or leftover medication?  Where should you dispose of unused drugs?  Many people simply toss their medications into the trash, or flush them down the drain.  However, this is creating serious consequences to our water supply and, consequently, our health. 

When the U.S. Geological Survey studied the ground water and the surface water in 25 states and Puerto Rico they discovered drug contamination in 96% of the samples they took.  Among the medications found in the water were hormones (from birth control pills, estrogen replacement drugs, etc.), steroids, codeine, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, antibiotics, and antimicrobials.  So, if you shouldn't simply toss the pill bottle into the trash, and you shouldn't flush them down the toilet, what other choices do you have?

What to do with Unused Medications

Your first choice is to use all the medication that is prescribed by your doctor, so that you have nothing left to throw away.  However, we all know that this is not always possible.  Sometimes a prescription is not working and a doctor changes it.  At other times, the doctor changes the dose, just after you filled the prescription.  (That has happened to me several times.)  What should we do with the leftover medicine then?

When this happens, you should put the medication in a sturdy and securely sealed container and put it deep in your trashcan where children and pets cannot reach it.  You can also "treat" the drugs so that children and animals will not eat them.  For example, you could add salt water, ashes or dirt to the pills before sealing them into a container.  You may want to remove your name and personal information from the pill bottles, too.

Another option is to take your leftover medications to a household hazardous waste collection center or special event, especially if the medicine you are trying to get rid of is a controlled substance such as codeine or a steroid. 

You may also want to check the website nodrugsdownthedrain.org for more information on how, where and why you should dispose of any drugs.  Since we Baby Boomers take a lot of medications, and will probably take even more as we age, we have a responsibility to learn how to dispose of our surplus medications safely.

Please make sure you are not doing anything to further contaminate our water supply.  Please do NOT flush drugs down the toilet or the drain.

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