Saturday, March 6, 2010

What to do with Medications you are no longer using

It is common for people with chronic conditions to have medications lying around that they are no longer using. In the past, medications were dumped in the toilet. However, studies show that this practice contaminates the water, not only endangering wild life, but also exposing people to low doses of medications through drinking water. Wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals and over the counter drugs.

If you have medications that your are no longer going to use, take the following steps:


• Check the instructions that came with the medication. Sometimes they’ll provide directions for disposal.

• Many communities have “take-back” programs. Inquire about disposal options in your area. Pharmacies, clinics, health centers and hospitals often have programs.

• Depending on the drug, the amount you have and the expiration date, you can donate medications for other patients. Some states have “drug repository” programs. Your medical provider may have more information on this, so check with them first. Another source of information will be a condition specific organization, such as The American Cancer Society.

• Call your local trash service as they may have household waste facilities that will incinerate the medication

• If your only option is to throw the medication in the trash, take the following precautions so no one (animals, children and people who pick through trash) is harmed
- Keep in original container, but mark out your name and prescription number. This is helpful if an animal or person is exposed to the contents. Note that some states recommend not leaving medication in their original containers.

- Modify the medication so someone can’t take it. For pills, add some water or soda to dissolve them. For liquids, add something inedible such as dirt, salt, kitty liter, flour or ashes. Wrap Blister packs in multiple layers of duct tape or packing tape. Transdermal patches should be folded into itself and then placed in an undesirable mixture.

- Close the lid and secure with duct tape or packing tape

- Place the bottle(s) inside a non see through container, such as a detergent bottle, margarine tub, empty yogurt container. Contents should not be seen.

- Tape the container closed and hide in the trash. Do not put it in the recycling bin. Do not conceal medicines in food products.

For more information on disposal of medications, check out the following sites:

Smart Disposal

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): How to Dispose of Unused Medicines

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