Most of us have them lying around – unused or unfinished bottles of medicine. Keeping unused medicines around can be unsafe, especially if there are children in the home, or people who may confuse the old medicines with new ones. Expired medicines may not work properly or cause a bad reaction, so it’s not a good reason to keep them around “just in case.”
So, whether you have over-the-counter (OTC) products that have expired or old prescription medicines you don’t need any more, they have to be disposed of and it has to be done safely. But how do you get rid of unwanted drugs?
Speak to your pharmacist
Some drug stores may take back unused medicines so that they may be disposed of safely.
Some municipalities have take-back programs for their citizens to dispose of expired or unused medicines. Call your local government agency to see if there are any in your area or if there is one nearby.
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
The U.S. Department of Justice offers National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in some areas. Their website offers a page where you can search for an authorized collector location near your home.
Still can’t dispose of the medicine?
Tossing medicines in the trash or into the sewer system is discouraged as much as possible. Drugs in the garbage may be eaten by animals scavenging for food, stolen by someone who wants to use the drug, or they may dissolve into the ground. Medicines that have been flushed down a toilet will dissolve in the water, possibly contaminating it. MedicineNet.com writes that the US Geological Survey found that 80% of 139 streams studied in 30 states contained traces of pharmaceuticals. However, sometimes these are the only options for disposal, so here is how to do it as safely as possible:
- Do not crush tablets or open capsules.
- Mix the medicines in something like kitty litter or used coffee grounds, something that is not going to tempt an animal to eat it.
- Place the mixture with the medicine in a sealed plastic bag or container.
- Place the container in your household trash.
They also recommend that you remove any identifying information off empty medicine containers by removing the labels or scratching out the information.
Although flushing medicines is not the ideal way to dispose of them, the FDA warns that keeping certain drugs, including patches, can be too dangerous. For this reason, they recommend flushing the medicines as soon as they are not needed.
If your medicine doesn’t come with instructions on how to dispose of it, check this list to see if it should be flushed.
TapGenes Take Away: Old and unused medicines can be dangerous – find out how you can safely dispose of them in your community.
Marijke Vroomen Durning is a registered nurse, health writer and author of Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Drugs & How to Take Them Safely.
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