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Don’t Dump Old Drugs

So, you’ve found some expired prescriptions and medication you no longer take in the medicine cabinet. Do you know what to do with them? Toss them in the trash? Flush them? Return them to the pharmacy? Honestly, it’s hard to know the correct answer.

Typically, throwing them in the trash or flushing them is a no-no, and pharmacies aren’t allowed to take returns on the unused portion of your medicine.

There are other options, however, and SEARHC Pharmacies have excellent ones.

In Juneau, Sitka, Haines, and Klawock there are MedSafe medication collection kiosks available to everyone in the community to dispose of old drugs. These DEA compliant units allow safe, environmentally-friendly disposal of unused and expired prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medication, keeping them off the street and out of the water supply.

When requested, SEARHC can include an at-home drug disposal pouch with mail order prescriptions for use by those patients living outside communities with a SEARHC pharmacy. The pouches use the patented Deterra® Drug Deactivation System to deactivate the medications and make them safe to throw away. It seems a little like science fiction, but the pouches contain a proprietary carbon molecule that when mixed with water, neutralizes the medication through a chemical reaction. It works on pills, patches, and liquids, allowing them to be absorbed by the carbon, making them irreversibly changed into something completely different. That means whatever went into the pouch cannot be turned back into a pill or liquid medication again.

There are also other options for those that don’t live near a site with a medication disposal kiosk. You can contact local law enforcement and ask about local options for dropping off unwanted or old medications or find out if they are participating in the DEA’s next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day and when it is.

If you are not able to wait for a Deterra® pouch to arrive in the mail or the next Drug Take Back Day, you can still dispose of your medications in the trash if you follow a couple of simple steps first. According to the FDA, you should mix any pills or capsules into an inedible substance, such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds. Then, place the entire mixture into a sealable container, like a resealable plastic bag, before tossing the whole thing into the trash.

Surprisingly, some medications come with a recommendation flush them. While other methods described here are preferred, sometimes the risk to others by accidental exposure is much greater than their risk to the environment or the health of others if flushed. Leaving the drugs in your home while waiting to dispose of them may not be a good idea. If you’re not sure whether your medications come with the recommendation to flush them, you may ask your SEARHC pharmacist or check the list on the DEA’s website.

Regardless of how you dispose of what’s inside, it is important to remember to remove any identifying information from the prescription bottles before you put them into the trash or recycling bin. Your privacy is of the utmost importance.

Traci Gale, PharmD reviewed the information presented here.

If you have feedback about this content or have additional topics ideas for SEARHC, email us at SEARHCnewsroom@searhc.org.

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