North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Health

April 22, 2009

How to properly dispose of unused medications

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Now that you’ve decided to clean out your medicine cabinet, you may have no idea what to do with all the old medications. Years ago, it was advised to flush the old medications, or just throw the bottle in the trash. Neither of those options is acceptable anymore. Flushed medications can end up in streams, rivers and lakes.

In 2008, it was reported that many medications, including antibiotics, mood stabilizers and hormone medications, were found in drinking water. While the amount we receive in the water supply may not be enough to harm or affect us, it has been found to affect fish and wildlife.

Throwing old medications in the trash is also not advisable without first taking proper measures. Children and pets could find the bottles and harm themselves by ingesting their contents. There is also the issue of patient confidentiality. It is never a good idea to have a medication bottle labeled with your name and medication laying around for anyone to see, even if it is in the garbage. You want to be sure to protect your privacy and personal health information.

Here are some guidelines you can follow on how to properly dispose of your old and unwanted medications.

• Do not flush any medication, unless specific instructions come with the medication stating to do so. Some narcotics may come with instructions on flushing the medication in order to prevent illegal use or accidental overdose.

• If there are no instructions to flush the medication, the medications may be thrown in the trash, but first: scratch off or mark out any identity information on the label; add water or soda to the bottle to start dissolving the pills; if it’s a liquid, add flour, pepper, cat litter or dirt to the bottle; secure the bottle with duct tape or packing tape; place the bottles in another container that you can’t see through, such as an empty coffee container, laundry detergent bottle or margarine tub; tape that container closed as well; and do not place these containers in the recycle bin. Hide them in the trash.

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