Home Safety: Getting Rid of Old Medication

Most medicine cabinets feature a jumble of over-the-counter remedies, hygiene products, and prescription drugs. That jumble can make it difficult to accurately identify the contents of individual containers, and the consequences can be deadly.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers estimates that poison centers across the country field nearly 11,000 phone calls daily. Many of those calls are made after the accidental ingestion of prescription drugs. Some people have inadvertently taken a prescription drug that was prescribed for someone else. In other cases, the caller has taken more than the prescribed dosage or has accidentally used a prescription drug when they mistook it for another remedy. Perhaps the most frightening cases are those that involve children who ingested a colorful pill because they thought it was candy.

Keeping leftover prescription drugs can certainly pose a threat. In fact, taking medications outside of the prescribed guidelines can cause serious illness or even death. Disposing of medications properly is the best way to prevent this from occurring.

Some prescription drugs have proper disposal procedures printed on the label. It is important to follow these guidelines precisely to ensure health and safety. Most often, these instructions are for flushing the pills in the toilet. Only a few prescription medications are considered appropriate for this type of disposal. The Federal Drug Administration keeps a list of flushable medications on their website. These particular drugs are considered safe to flush as they pose little threat of contamination to the community water supply.

Alternatively, many communities sponsor take back programs for prescription drugs. Many of these take-back programs are administered by pharmacies. A phone call to any pharmacy will establish whether they participate in such a program. The city or county may also have established a drug take-back location through the municipal trash and recycling facilities. Check with local government websites to see if they are offering a drug take-back program.

When no take-back program is available, the drugs may be disposed of in the trash after being mixed with other substances like coffee grounds or kitty litter. The FDA states that this mixing makes the pills less attractive to kids and others who might want to ingest the drugs. After mixing the drugs, they should be placed in a sealed plastic bag to prevent them from contaminating anything with which they come into contact.

By following these guidelines, any prescription drugs can be safely disposed of, and a very real threat to health and safety will be eliminated.