What to Do with Unused Drugs

by on August 31st, 2010
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The presence of strong medications in our water supply has become a serious problem. Once upon a time, we were instructed to flush our unused medications down the toilet. This was to prevent children from getting into them if you threw them in the trash.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The water is filtered at the water reclamation plants, right? What could possible go wrong?

The plants can’t get all of the drugs out of the water. Drugs thrown into landfills also pose a contamination risk. What we think of as a safe water supply flowing to our homes through that magical tap is not necessarily safe. Many strong drugs have been found when the water is tested.

It was inevitable that this problem would develop into something extremely serious in nature. Studies now indicate that birth control pills flushed down the toilet and then added to the water supply could cause prostate cancer in men. While it’s the only water supply/disease connection made thus far, it won’t be the last.

As we can’t flush them or toss them, we are in something of a quandary. We can’t leave old drugs hanging around the house. Outdated drugs can cause more harm than good. Strong drugs, such as Vicodin and Oxycodone are possible drugs of abuse, easily swiped by visitors with a hankering for their kind of high. What do we do with them?

A thorough plan of action hasn’t yet been put together, but there are some temporary plans at work. Just like the “household hazardous waste days” most cities and counties sponsor, there are now “drop off your unwanted pills” days. These usually occur at pharmacies, where the people know exactly what to do with them.

There is also drug recycling. Unused drugs that haven’t expired can sometimes be donated for poor patients who cannot afford them. There are strict rules about this; a pharmacist has to check the drugs and make sure they are what they say they are and not tampered with. Some states only allow recycling from medical institutions and doctor’s offices. This idea isn’t a bad one, if adequate safeguards are in place.

Keeping the medicine cabinet in order and properly stocked isn’t always easy. It’s very tempting just to toss unused medications, but that is proving to be a dangerous idea. Just as you wouldn’t dump oil into a storm drain, don’t drop drugs into our water supply. Please; it’s not just for the rest of us. It affects you, too.


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