June 26, 2009

Proper Disposal of Medications

As an organizer, my clients ask me all the time what to do with unused or outdated prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. This is a great question since options are slim.

If you flush medication down the toilet, they can enter the soil, surface water and groundwater, causing harm to fish and wildlife (modern wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to remove synthetic pollutants like pharmaceuticals).

If you throw medication in the trash, children or pets could possibly find them. If swallowed, they could be poisoned.

If you continue to store them in your home, it creates an opportunity for illicit use. One in five teens report intentionally misusing someone else's prescription drugs to get high.

So what's the answer?
  • Call your local drugstore or pharmacy for options in your area. Pharmacies are not required to take back your medications, however, sometimes they sponsor "clean out your medicine cabinet" drives where customers can return unused medications, supplements, and other over-the-counter products.
  • Check with your police department to see if they have a drug collection program.
  • Check to see if your community household hazardous waste program collects medications.
  • For those of you who live in Sonoma County, great news! There's now a Safe Medicine Disposal Program. You can take your unused medication to a participating pharmacy and they'll collect them FREE of charge and place them in a secure bin to dispose of them properly. For a list of participating pharmacies click here.
  • As a last resort, if no collection options exist, follow these steps: (1) Remove all labels containing personal information from prescription bottles (2) Mix all unused drugs with coffee grounds, kitty litter, or another undesirable substance, and/or (3) place this mixture in a sealed container before disposing in the trash.

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