Monday, December 28, 2009


Properly dispose of your medications

Finding information about the importance of taking your medications, and how to properly do it, is easy. And that’s a good thing.

But what do you do when you no longer need them? That is also an important question and the answer is not so easy to find.

So what do you do? If you’re like many you simply place the unneeded bottle of medication back in the medicine cabinet and leave it there for years to come.

The wiser thing to do would be to dispose of them properly; in a way that prevents others from using them and limits the impact on our environment.

Piling up old medications in the medicine cabinet causes a number of problems. A cluttered cabinet can lead to confusion and mistakenly taking the wrong medication, and one that is likely out-of date.

Prescription drugs are also being stolen and abused at alarming rates, therefore a cabinet overflowing with medications could be inviting trouble.

Years ago, the advice handed out about drug disposal was to flush them all down the toilet. It quickly and easily gets rid of them, but also adds more pharmaceutical compounds into our ground water.

Today, the best advice is to dispose of most medications in your household trash after mixing them with an undesirable substance.

Remove the medications from their prescription bottles and mix them with old coffee grounds, kitty litter or other not so pleasant substances. Then place the mixture in a sealable container such as a margarine tub or plastic bag and throw them out with the trash. This disguises the medications from those who might want to steal them as well as making them undesirable to pets and young children who might otherwise accidentally ingest them. But not all medications should be disposed of this way.

Some medications may be very harmful, even lethal when just a single dose is taken by those it was not prescribed for. For these drugs, it is still suggested to flush them down the toilet or wash them down the sink. This method of disposal immediately and completely removes the risk of harm that these medications could case if improperly used.

What about the ground water you ask? While it is true that this method of disposal could end up in our water supply, it is a tiny and inconsequential amount that is far outweighed by the harm that could occur if these drugs are ingested accidentally.

Most experts agree that the pharmaceuticals that are found in trace amounts in ground water have gotten there from our body’s natural process of drug elimination and there is currently no evidence that shows any harmful effects to our health.

What medications then should still be flushed away? The information you receive with your prescriptions medicines should list the proper disposal method. If you can’t find it, you can get a list of which medications should be flushed by visiting the FDA’s website:, call them at 1-888-INFO-FDA or visit their partner website with the National Library of Medicine called “DailyMed.” In general, the list includes most narcotic pain relievers and some anti-anxiety medications.

Michael Smith is a pharmacist and Clinical Coordinator in the Department of Pharmacy Services at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Mr. Smith or any of the Healthy Living columnists at comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

Anxiety is a common problem in today's society, that is why he draws the people to be very careful with the medicines they take for anxiety that can accrue from a common chronic pain, it is important that people know the importance that these drugs can cause anxiety and lead, according to a report that indicates that anxiety disorders are very common chronic anxiety with medication, especially in developed countries like Europe and United States of America.
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