Responsible Disposal of Pharmaceuticals

By Aparna Mele

Water sampling studies throughout the country have revealed the presence of antidepressants, beta-blockers, anxiolytics, antibiotics, analgesics, antihypertensives, hormones, and more.

A decade of research has clearly demonstrated that medications in water have significant detrimental effects on other species who depend on these waterways for life. Amphibians, fish, and reptiles have shown altered gender ratios, dysfunctional reproduction, and developmental defects because of our human medical debris. Exposure could also be a concern for children who are in critical developmental stages and are vulnerable to external forces.

Drug Take Back Programs

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in communities nationwide. Many communities also have their own drug take back programs. Check with your local law enforcement officials to find a location near you or with the DEA to find a DEA-authorized collector in your community.

You can also check with your pharmacist. Some pharmacies have mail-back programs and disposal kiosks for unused medicines.

Disposing medicines in household trash: Almost all medicines can be thrown into your household trash. These include prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in pills, liquids, drops, patches, creams, and inhalers.

Follow these steps:

  1. Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. This makes the medicine less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.
  2. Put the mixture in something you can close (a re-sealable zipper storage bag, empty can, or other container) to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
  3. Throw the container in the garbage.
  4. Scratch out all your personal information on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity and privacy. Recycle whatever packaging you can and throw the rest away.

Do your part to protect our environment and our water. Dispose of your medications responsibly!

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