ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Proper Disposal of Old Medications

Updated on September 24, 2012

Disposal of Medication

SImply throwing away old pills or flushing them down the toilet is not the best way to dispose of old meications. There are safer methods.
SImply throwing away old pills or flushing them down the toilet is not the best way to dispose of old meications. There are safer methods. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

It's not unusual for people to find they have old, or outdated medications at home, either prescriptions or over the counter medications. Either we stopped taking them or we didn't need them anymore. Perhaps the doctor ordered a new medication to replace the old one, or they belonged to a friend or relative who died at some point, and so they were overlooked. Whatever the reason, these old drugs need to be disposed of safely. But how? Properly and safely discarding of old medications is vital.

Flushing them isn't a good idea. If everyone dumped their hormones, or antibiotics, or diabetic meds, or psychiatric drugs into the toilet, could you imagine what that would do to our water supply, the environment, or the plants and animals that depend on the water supplies and the ground nearby. Imagine all the food we eat that may have been contaminated by all those drugs.

Reduce Orders, Purchase Less

One way to keep medicine cabinets clear of old medication is to buy less of the drugs in the first place. Unless you've got arthritis or chronic pain, there's really no reason to buy that large bottle of AdvilĀ®. Otherwise, it ends up being stored well past the expiration date. It is also a good idea to request that the physician prescribe the minimum or ask the pharmacist to fill the smallest amount of the prescription needed. Why pay for a six month supply when a one month supply will do. For one thing, if the prescription needs to be changed or the patient dies, there is less medication left over to be discarded.


Pharmacy Take-Back Programs

Many pharmacies have a take-back program. Ask the pharmacy that filled the prescription or the doctor that prescribed it if they have such a program. If not, ask if they can point you to a city or county government program that has a take-back program. Take-back programs allow people to turn in any unused prescription and over-the-counter medications to a party that will dispose of the drugs responsibly. If no such program is immediately accessible, lock up the medicines to prevent misuse or abuse until such a program becomes available.

Disposing Medications in the Trash

Medications can be thrown away, provided special precautions are taken. First pills must be crushed and the contents of capsules must be emptied. Next, pour these pill and capsule granules, along with any liquid medications, into a coffee can, a margarine container or a fabric softener container. (Any kind of a container likes this with a tight fitting lid that you would have disposed of anyway.) Next mix in some other ingredient(s) that will make the drug concoction unappetizing -- something like dirt, kitty liter, cayenne pepper or habanera peppers, concrete mix -- you get the idea. Tightly seal the bottle, tub or can. Then tape it closed with lots of duct tape

Any prescriptions bottles must also be properly disposed of. First, the personal information on prescription pharmaceuticals needs to be camouflaged. "Black out" the patient's name, doctor's name and all the prescription information with a permanent marker. Next, bundle all the medication bottles into some zipper baggies and wrap them in duct tape. Finally, hide both the prescription bottles and their sealed contents in the garbage can. Don't just set them on top of the garbage, mix them in with the rest of the trash so that they don't stand out or attract anyone who might be tempted to poke through your trash.

Update

There is a relatively new company that has set up another system for safely disposing of old and unused medication - Element MDs. The product comes with a bottle and a packet of powder that turns to gel when activated with water. The basic concept is to fill the bottle with the old medications, dump in the gelatin packet, add water then put on the tamper resistant cap and shake. The gelatin powder gels within 24 hours. Then the whole package can be thrown out with the trash. One medication disposal unit costs $9.99. There's a bulk package of the the disposal system available for medical faciliites. Check it out and decide for yourself if this is something you'd consider. The website is located at: http://www.elementmds.com/index.html


Bibliography

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Disposal of Household Medication. Downloaded 1/2012.

http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/hhw/howto/medications.htm

Florida Department of Environmental Protection. How to Dispose of Unwanted Medications. Downloaded 1/2102.

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/medications/default.htm

Wedro, Benjamine C., MD, FAAEm, FACEP. Medicine Net. Medication Disposal --- What to Do With Old or Unusable Medication. Downloaded 1/2012

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=85048

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Disposal of Unwanted or Unused Pharmaceuticals. Downloaded 1/2101.

http://www.epa.state.il.us/land/hazardous-waste/household-haz-waste/pharmaceuticals-disposal.html

Rykowski, Maureen. The Phoenix. Gateway Pharmacy Disposes Of Old Medications. Downloaded 1/2102.

http://phoenixvillenews.com/articles/2010/12/13/news/srv0000010259651.txt

Walgreens Pharmacist. FAQ: Drugs, Proper Disposal. Downloaded 1/2012

http://www.walgreens.com/marketing/library/ask/aap/drugsproperdisposal/drugsproperdisposal_federalguidelines.jsp

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • joanwz profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Whetzel 

      5 years ago from Katy, Texas

      I wonder sometimes if we shouldn't continue that process. It's scary how much of our drugs get into ecosystem.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      5 years ago from California

      My son is taking an ecology class in college and he was amazed with the studies they have done on the San Francisco Bay. The amount of birth control hormones peed into the sewage system eventually ending up in the bay is changing fertility rates in fish.

      Long ago they used to burn old drugs.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I use the trash disposal methods you described, using lots of duct tape. I LOVE DUCT TAPE! Unfortunately, I know there are many people flushing meds down the toilet or just tossing them, still in the original bottles, in the trash.

      Very good article! Voted UP, USEFUL and INTERESTING.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)