How to Properly Dispose of Expired Medicine
Everyone wants to keep their family safe, so if you have over-the-counter or prescription medication in your home, it is essential to dispose of those that have expired properly and safely. Many people aren't aware of what they can do with expired medications and may throw them away or flush them down the toilet, but this could be potentially dangerous for the environment. Research indicates pharmaceuticals in our fresh waterways have increased 10 to 20 fold during the past 20 years.
Expired drugs at home are increasingly becoming a national problem. Statistics show that 1/3 of Americans still have year-old medicine in their cabinets, and 1/5 of the population hasn't cleaned out their expired prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs in five or more years. That's over 200 million pounds of unused medications dangerously sitting around in medicine cabinets across the country.
So, what do you do with your expired medications? Many pharmacies will take your expired medication back for proper disposal, so before you throw them in the trash or flush them down the toilet, contact your local pharmacy to see if they offer this service. If they don't, there are other things you can do.
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
October is National Prescription Drug Take-Back month, so contact your local law enforcement to find out where you can safely dispose of your expired medications. Along with the national program sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), your local community may offer a similar program on a smaller scale. Contact your local public health department to find out when and where you can access it. Additionally, for controlled medications, such as opioids, the DEA offers public locations throughout the country to dispose of these prescriptions.
Steps for Safe Home Disposal
While it's excellent there's a safe disposal option for these medications, what about other expired medications in your home that pharmacies won't take back? Here's a safe way to dispose of these prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines you can't get a store or agency to take back.
Step One: Mix it Up
Mix the medication with an unpalatable substance, such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds. Use a small container to mix it in, and make sure to add more of the unpalatable substance than you do prescription medications. This step ensures that no one will accidentally ingest this concoction.
Step 2: Seal It
Place the mixture in a plastic sealable bag, like a Ziploc bag, and discard it with your household trash. Don't dump it down the toilet unless the drug label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so.
Step 3: Label It
Use a marker to write on the outside of the container "Contains expired medicine." This final part of the process will ensure that sanitation workers know what they're handling and let them dispose of it properly.
Now you know how to dispose of your old, expired medications properly! By following the proper disposal steps and precautions, you can help to reduce dangerous effects on the environment and ensure your medicine cabinet doesn't pose unnecessary risk to your family.
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