We’re all guilty of hanging on to medicines we no longer need or use. Whether this stems from simply forgetting and leaving them at the back of the medicine cabinet, or from putting off disposing of them, the problem of what to do with them eventually raises its head.
Safely disposing your medicine keeps potentially dangerous substances out of the hands of children, away from pets and anyone who might intentionally misuse them. It’s also necessary to protect the environment and keep harmful substances out of the water supply.
Why Safe Disposal is Important
While it’s relatively safe to share generic, over-the-counter medicines such as common headache pain relievers with others, most prescribed medicines should not be shared. What’s prescribed for one individual is carefully chosen by medical professionals to treat specific symptoms, and could be harmful (or even fatal) to anyone else. Children are especially vulnerable because the bright colors used in many tablets and liquid medicines make them look like candy.
Should You Flush Unwanted Medicine?
There is a natural concern that flushing expired or no longer needed medications down the toilet poses a threat to the environment. Not all medication is suitable for flushing, but the FDA maintains a list of medicines that are suitable and this is available on their website.
While low levels of medicine do tend to appear in surface waters like rivers or streams, the majority of this comes from the body’s natural excretion of medicines. The tiny amount added by flushing the medicines on the FDA list makes very little difference. The FDA believes that the risk of the medications getting into the wrong hands and causing harm is far greater than that posed by flushing.
However, despite maintaining the short list of recommended medicines, the FDA also recommends that we use flushing as a last resort, with a preference for finding alternative, safe methods of disposal.
If your medication isn’t on the list of drugs you can flush, there are other options. Some people prefer to go with these options in the first place, rather than flushing them.
#1 — Community Take-Back Programs
The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) hosts periodic take-back events, setting up collection sites at various locations so people can safely dispose of their unwanted or expired prescription drugs. Mostly these programs apply to tablets, capsules or other solid dosage forms rather than