Do you have old prescription drugs lurking in your medicine cabinet, under your bathroom sink, or tucked away in some other nook or cranny of your home? If so, then you are not alone. It is common for people to have expired or unused medication at home. Perhaps the medication is one that is not used daily and has expired or perhaps it belonged to a loved one who has passed away. Regardless, having it sitting around the house is dangerous. It is equally dangerous to dispose of prescription drugs improperly. Whether it is time for spring cleaning or some other purge, many people tend to take this old medication and either flush it down the toilet or throw it in the garbage, neither of which are good options.
Old Medication Sitting Around
Expired or unneeded medication that is just sitting around in your home is a danger to everyone who walks into your home. You could accidentally take it, risking your health, or your children and their friends could find it and ingest it. In fact, there are prescription drugs that can kill a child if they take just one pill. These include diabetes medications, such as Metformin; heart medications, such as Coumadin and Lovenox; and antidepressants, such as Celexa and Zoloft.
Improper Disposal of Prescription Drugs
When you flush prescription medications down the toilet, they pose no direct harm to your children or other people, but they do cause harm to the environment. From Tylenol to antibiotics, such as Zithromax and Amoxicillin, anything that goes down the toilet ends up in the local waterways and community drinking water. Not all of this drug residue can be removed during the water treatment process. Throwing unused or expired medications in the garbage not only leads to these drugs ending up in landfills, but also runs the risk of these medications being discovered by children before the trash is taken out.
How to Safely Dispose of Prescription Drugs
The ideal method of disposal for unused and old prescription drugs is to make use of a medicine take-back program. You can find out about programs from your local government office or your pharmacist. However, there are people who live in areas where they have no access to take-back programs. In these situations, the medication must still be disposed of and throwing it in the trash may be the only option. If this is the case, then you can follow these steps:
- Leave pills intact (do not crush them) and mix them with an inedible a substance such as used coffee grounds or cat litter
- Put the mixture in a sealable container, such as a plastic bag
- Put the container into your regular household garbage
- You might be able to recycle the empty pill bottle, but whatever way you dispose of it, first remove all information on the prescription label
By ensuring you do not have any unnecessary medications in your home and disposing of expired and unused medications properly, you will be keeping yourself, your loved ones, and the environment safe. And remember, be sure to keep the medications you do need in a safe secure location, out of the reach of children.178