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How should you dispose of unwanted medications?

PATRICK AFB, Fla. --      Is your medicine cabinet filled with expired drugs or medications you no longer use? If so, we recommend you dispose of them, but please do so safely and legally. Consumers may throw unwanted or expired drugs in the household trash, but first:
  • Take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.
  •  Put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage  bag. I usually recommend laundry detergent or bleach bottles.
  • Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so. There are a few medications such as narcotic patches and chemotherapy that have special instructions included.
  • Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring
    unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. The Drug Enforcement Administration, working with state and local law enforcement agencies, is sponsoring
  • National Prescription Drug Take Back Days in April and October. The last one, Oct. 29, 2011, at Patrick AFB, collected more than 100 pounds of unwanted medication.
     Before throwing out a medicine container, scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.
     Do not give medications to friends. Doctors prescribe drugs based on a person's specific symptoms and medical history. A drug that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.
     To be valid, a prescription for a controlled substance must be issued for a legitimate medical
purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of professional practice. This means that a prescription to treat pain following wisdom tooth removal should not be used four months later when you sprain your ankle.
     When in doubt about proper disposal, talk to your pharmacist. Although pharmacies are not
allowed to take medications back into the pharmacy, the pharmacy staff has handouts and advice for how patients can properly dispose of their drugs.