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Disposing of Meds

Posted 3/18/2014

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  This is not a commonly discussed topic, but it is actually quite important. What do you do with the left over pills? Most of us have at least a few half empty bottles, and some of us have more than a few. I will admit that my standard practice has been to dump and flush them (except in my jubilant 1993 moment, after finishing chemotherapy, when I lined them all up in the driveway and drove over them), and I have now learned that it a public health hazard.

  Sometimes there is quasi illegal sharing of medications among group members, and sometimes there is at least conversation about that. No health care professional can get into the middle of that mix, and there are regulations about not sharing unused medications. It seems particularly wasteful when they are expensive drugs, and even more so when the bottles are virtually full.

  This is an excellent summary of this problem by Heather Millar. I give you the beginning and a link:

What to Do with Unused Prescription Medication?
By Heather Millar

I reorganized my bathroom drawer today. The main reason I did it was to postpone making a couple unpleasant
phone calls. But way in the back of the drawer, I found a time capsule of my cancer treatment, now three years
in the past–a clutch of half-empty bottles: steroids that helped me through chemo, pills for nerve pain, pills for
muscle pain, pills for digestive distress.
What to do with these cancer leftovers? Ideally, I’d like some other patient to make use of them. At the very
least, I’d like to dispose of them in a way that’s responsible. Flushing old drugs down the toilet or tossing them
in the trash is NOT a good idea, the drugs eventually seep into the water supply as outlined in this WebMD
feature. (
No one’s sure how dangerous these trace amounts of prescription medicines may be—the research has yet to
be done—but most public utility districts have programs for safe prescription drug disposal.
But I didn’t want to throw out my old drugs, I wanted them to help someone else. I live in San Francisco, perhaps the epicenter of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” revolution. Recycling seemed so much cooler than just being safe.
But recycling drugs, it turns out, is much easier said than done. If you Google, “drug recycling” and the name of your state, the first results will probably be for drug disposal, not drug recycling. Apparently, it is a bit easier to donate drugs in some countries overseas.


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