Unwanted medications are something most of us have — whether it is aspirin past its “use by” date or prescribed painkillers we did not take. We have all heard about the alarming epidemic of prescription drug abuse; none of us wants our unwanted drugs to get into the wrong hands. What is the best way to dispose of them?
Let’s start with what NOT to do. The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) warns: Do not flush prescription medicines or over the counter products down the sink or toilet! While this method of disposal does prevent someone from taking the medications (either accidentally or intentionally), it also causes water pollution and has adverse effects on fish and other aquatic wildlife. Trace amounts of all kinds of drugs pass through septic systems and sewage plants untreated and have been found in some drinking water supplies.
Consumers have several safe disposal options.
Take Your Unwanted Prescription Drugs to a One-Day Collection
April 30, 2016 is a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). You can find a collection site in your neighborhood here. Americans turned in 350 tons of prescription drugs at more than 5,000 sites on the September 2015 Drug Take-Back Day. In its ten Take Back events to date, the DEA and its partners have collected over 5.5 million pounds—more than 2,750 tons—of pills. Why is this initiative so important? According to the DEA’s Drug Take-Back Day press release, studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, many from the home medicine cabinet.
Deposit Unwanted Medications in a Locked Drug Box
- If you live in Connecticut, you can find out from this interactive map whether your local police department has a locked drug drop box. These boxes are secured in the lobby of the police department and are accessible anytime the department is open. No questions asked, just drop the unwanted medications in and they will be safely and securely destroyed.
- You CAN discard: Over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, medication samples, medicated lotions or ointments, and medications for household pets.
- The following items are NOT accepted: needles or other “sharps,” hazardous waste, or thermometers. For disposal of “Sharps,” follow the recommendations of the FDA listed here. Hazardous waste and thermometers should be brought to HazWaste Central when it opens in mid-May.
Dispose of Them in Your Trash (after following these simple steps):
- Keep medication in its original container. Cross out patient’s name or remove label.
- Modify the medications to discourage consumption and to prevent unused prescriptions from being retrieved and abused. For pills or capsules: add a small amount of water to partially dissolve them. For liquid medications: add salt, flour, charcoal, kitty litter or a powdered spice to make a pungent, unsightly mixture that discourages anyone from eating it. For blister packs: wrap pack containing pills in multiple layers of duct tape.
- Seal and conceal. Tape medicine container lid shut with packing / duct tape. Place inside a non-transparent bag or container (such as an empty yogurt tub) so it cannot be seen. Do not conceal medicines in food products because animals could inadvertently eat them.
- Discard the container in your trash can. Do not put container in your recycling bin!
- Be sure to follow these steps for pet medications, too.
- For more general information see this downloadable guide prepared by the CT Department of Consumer Protection Prescription Monitoring Program.
Finally, an Important Warning:
Remember to keep all your medications secure and out of sight of any young ones, in your home and when you travel. According to WebMD, medications are the leading cause of child poisoning in the U.S. Each year more than 60,000 kids ages five and under are treated in emergency rooms in the U.S. after getting into medications. Those handy daily pill reminder boxes are particularly enticing to young explorers, as are colorful pills dropped and left on the floor.
NOTE: One of the many hats I wear is graphic designer of HomeHaven News, the monthly newsletter for HomeHaven, a member of the Village to Village Network. This article is an expanded version of my “Responsible Downsizing” column in the April, 2016 edition. HomeHaven and the growing network of villages around the country are an extraordinary resource for people who want to “live life to the fullest in the comfort of their own home.”
I hope you find all of this info “Things Worth Knowing.” Check for more stories like these as time goes by. [And search this blog for more posts in this vein.]