Don’t know what to do with expired medications?
Go through the medicine cabinet of most households and you’re likely to find expired medication. Because many of us are never educated on the proper disposal methods (instructions are not on the prescription labels, not communicated to us by our doctors or by our pharmacists) we tend to hang on to these old, unwanted, or unused drugs because we don’t know what to do with them. But the adverse side effects of prescription drugs make medicines dangerous to those around us. And signs of prescription pill abuse in our country indicate it’s easy for teens and addicts to get hold of these medications.
What can we do to protect others? Unfortunately, the best way to get rid of prescription drugs is not that clear.
To make matters more complicated, government officials, the FDA, and environmentalists don’t always agree on what proper disposal is. A recent investigation showed that trace amounts of common over-the-counter and prescribed drugs such as Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, prescription heart medications, antianxiety drugs, anti-seizure medications, and some sex hormones were found in the water supply of 24 major cities in the United States.
While scientists are unclear what affects these medications in our water supplies may have, it is up to each of us to be aware of the potential hazards of unused prescription medications and handle their disposal in a responsible way.
How to get rid of prescription drugs
Here are some tips and guidelines to follow when disposing of prescription drugs:
1. Check before flushing. In most cases, with the exception of the following list, medications should not be flushed down the sink or toilet. The FDA has created this list of medications that they recommend flushing if the drugs are expired, unwanted, or unused. Holding onto the following medications can cause risk if accidentally taken or given to children or pets who are not prescribed to take them. Teenagers who abuse prescription medications often obtain these drugs from the family medicine cabinet which is another reason the FDA suggests flushing these medications for quick disposal rather than hanging on to them and creating a possible hazard.
- Dolophine Hydrochloride
- Methadone Hydrochloride
- Morphine Sulfate
- MS Contin
- Nucynta ER
- Oramorph SR
- Oxycodone Hydrochloride
2. Prepare before trashing. Most government organizations now recommend that you dispose of old medications in the trash rather than the toilet. It is suggested that you remove the medication from its original container, mix it with an undesirable substance (such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds), put the mixture into a Ziploc baggie or a container with a lid, then throw the package in the trash.
Be aware that there are some concerns that if you remove the medication from the container, and the drugs are ingested, there will be no way of knowing what drug has been taken. For that reason some experts recommend blacking out the name and personal information from the prescription bottle, and then covering the bottle in a container with an undesirable substance.
3. Take advantage of Take Back Programs. Take Back programs have been created to offer a safe way to dispose of old or unwanted medication. These programs are usually facilitated by pharmacies, community organizations, and/or government groups. These must be facilitated utilizing proper guidelines and in most cases a law enforcement officer must supervise or be present because of the potential of controlled substances being brought for disposal. To find a Take Back program happening near you, or if you are interested in starting a local Take Back program in your area learn more at the Take Back program website.
4. Continue your research. Lastly, keep in mind that the information in this article is subject to change. The FDA and our government are continually evaluating safety risks and looking for the best solutions.