Is your medicine cabinet filled with bottles of prescription medication from years gone by? It might be time to take an inventory of your stock and get rid of the expired drugs.
Drugs are chemical compounds that break down over time, and expiration dates ensure that you use the medication before this breakdown begins. Thus, it’s absolutely vital not to use expired medication or healthcare products of any kind. At the same time, it’s important to dispose of unused and expired drugs in the safest way possible to ensure no harm comes to people, animals, or the environment.
The most basic piece of advice is to never, ever flush your prescription or over-the-counter medications down the toilet.
When drugs are flushed, they can easily enter the public water system, creating the potential for disaster. If you have a septic tank, flushed medication can soak into the ground and end up in ground water. For those of you in cities and towns where you’re connected to a wastewater treatment plant, drugs can pass through treatment and end up in lakes, rivers, and streams and eventually end up in community drinking water. Unfortunately, these treatment plants are not usually capable of filtering out medication.
So how do you get rid of that old, unwanted medicine? Here are a few quick tips.
- In Israel, every HMO clinic offers an expired prescription medication drop box for easy disposal. In the U.S., many clinics and pharmacies offer this option, as well. You can find a location near you by using DisposeMyMeds.org.
- Contact your city or county governments to ask about approved collection options like community-run household hazardous waste collection events. If you can’t find one in your town, consider setting up your own Hazardous Waste Collection Day.
If you want to dispose of your prescription drugs at home, follow these steps to ensure that children, pets, and the environment don’t suffer.
- Place your drugs in a sealable bag with water to dissolve any solids like pills and liquid capsules.
- Add kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds or any material that is absorbent and will keep kids and pets from eating it to the bag of dissolved medication.
- Seal the plastic bag and then throw it in the trash.
Also, be sure you remove all identifying information (labels) from containers and packaging before you throw them in the trash or recycling.
Note: There are certain medications that your pharmacist might advise flushing as soon as their expired in order to keep your household safe, and you can find those drugs on the FDA’s list of flushable medications. But when in doubt, use the above methods to dispose of your over-the-counter and prescription medication.
Have a question about prescription drug disposal? Send us an email.