An article in the July 4 issue of Parade magazine brought to mind a topic that should probably be addressed more often: how to dispose of unused medications. We all have these in our drawers or medicine cabinets. The last few antibiotic tablets you should have taken but didn’t, the cold medication that made you woozy, the pain pills you needed for only for a day or two, or the prescription that upset your stomach. Now these drugs are outdated and you don’t know how to get rid of them. The article by Dr. Ranit Mishori told of a “Dispose My Meds” campaign through which over 800 pharmacies have agreed to cooperate in disposing of these drugs. You can find a location through the website DisposeMyMeds.org.
If you don’t have a participating pharmacy near you, there are easy ways to safely dispose of your drugs. First, do not flush them down the toilet! They pollute lakes and rivers and enter the local water supply. There are no filters that remove the drugs, and chemical treatment often has little effect. Some researchers have theorized that the minute traces of estrogen in municipal water supplies might be partly responsible for the increasingly early onset of puberty in young girls. Others believe the presence of the residue of dozens of antibiotics encourages the growth and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The best way to dispose of prescription or non-prescription medications is to leave them in their original containers. For tablets, add a couple tablespoons of water to dissolve the tablets and then reseal the bottle. For liquids or syrups, add flour to the bottle and shake vigorously. Use enough flour to make a thick, unappetizing paste. With the cap on, you can now toss the medicine into the trash and feel confident that the contents won’t leak out, and no one will be tempted to consume it, even if they find the bottle in the trash. In a landfill, the drugs will be contained virtually forever, where they will not pollute the environment or pose a safety hazard to people or animals.
Make it a point this week to clean out your drawers and cupboards of old medications and dispose of them safely.