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Must-know Tips on How to Properly Dispose of Unused Medication

How to Properly Dispose of Unused Medication
Keeping a stack of medicines that have surpassed their shelf life can turn out to be fatal not just for you, but also for your family. It's always best to do away with such medicines, and make sure you do it responsibly.
Cheryl Mascarenhas
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Prescription drugs are meant for a specific purpose, i.e., to aid you in effective treatment for a particular condition. The problem arises when you have regained your health and do not find the need to pop them again. It is a common phenomenon to find surplus medication lying in a corner of the medical kit/cabinet, invariably becoming toxic waste. The major hurdle most face is the question of safely disposing the medicines that are no longer useful or have exceeded their shelf life.
In order to minimize the risk of drug abuse and poisoning, the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act came into being in 2010. This act seeks to reduce the risks of unused medicines and expired medicines by conducting national drug take-back programs. Medicines that aren't used and disposed in an improper method can contribute to the accumulation of toxic waste, and thereby contribute to the degradation of the environment.
Why is this such a major concern? Well, there is proof that water bodies contain some amounts of over-the-counter drugs that are generally flushed or drained down a sink. These drugs remain in the water as water treatment plants aren't designed to remove them, and eventually result in ecological harm.
Safe Disposal of Unused Medicines
Here are a few ways you can get rid of unused prescription or expired medication without letting it affect your environment and loved ones.
Drug Take-Back Programs
Community or national drug take-back programs collect unused and expired medication to safely dispose them off. Those of you who are worried of medicine misuse and abuse can contact your local pharmacy to ask if they take back unused medicines. It is also best to ask for community take-back programs that collect the prescribed medicines at a central location. The expired medicines can then be disposed, while unused medicines can be recycled or else donated to those who are in need of the medication. You will find a number of organizations who collect unused medicines that can be donated to Third World countries. The Drug Enforcement Administration, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice sponsors National Drug Take-back Days in the US. The next drug take-back day will be conducted on September 29, 2012. You can even call your local trash service or the local hospital who can collect the medicines and incinerate it.
Follow the Guidelines
If your region doesn't have take-back days, then the next best option is to follow instructions or guidelines printed on the prescribed medicines. Gone are the days when you could just empty the contents into the sink or simply flush it down the drain. The Federal Government despises flushing of medication as it impacts the environment in an adverse way. However, the FDA recommends that certain medicines should be flushed due to their abuse potential. Do read the instructions carefully before doing away with the medicines.
Prudent Disposal
The last option that you can resort to while disposing of the medicines is to dump them in the bin; however, before you do this, you need to meet the safety guidelines as given by the FDA.
»To protect your identity and your medical condition, you need to ensure that you destroy the prescription label from the container.
»Empty the medicines from their containers so that the type of medication remains unknown.
»Crush solid medicines and mix them with pet litter or sawdust or simply dissolve it into something that will not be appealing for pets or children to explore.
»You can even mix the pills with ground coffee dregs, cleaning fluids or even bleach.
»Place the mixture into an empty can or dump them into an old container before you dump them into the trash.
Besides, if you are still in doubt of properly discarding unused medicines, talk to your pharmacist who will be able to guide you better.