If you are anything like the rest of us, your medicine cabinet is filled with old medications – Tylenol from 1990, prescription pain pills from your surgery three years ago, children’s cough syrup from the last time Junior had a cold and something unidentifiable in a small, plastic vial . . . that smells funny. You’ve been holding onto them because you haven’t had time to think of disposal, you may need them in the future or you aren’t sure how to get rid of them. Whatever the reason, trash it along with the moldy pills.
Old medications are dangerous. Many over-the-counter drugs can become toxic, and prescriptions lose/gain strength with time. Taking a pill five years after you first picked it up from the pharmacy can mean that you aren’t getting the help you need or that you are ingesting too much. Moreover, leaving bottles around is a surefire temptation, for kids, pets and drug abusers. Most illicit use begins in a family or friend’s cabinet. Adults and teens alike scavenge secretly, forming a stash for free. As such, it is vital that you empty out your medicine cabinet regularly. Dispose of drugs that you no longer need or that have expired, but make sure you do so properly.
Flushing them down the toilet is probably your first thought. However, that would be a mistake. Medication in the waterways will contaminate the water. It will expose germs and bacteria to formulas, enabling them to become drug-resistant and will create any number of additional environmental and health concerns. So, what should you do – toss them in the trash without a care? Again, no. Doing that is still going to make them available to the secretly addicted, the curious kids and the I’ll-swallow-anything-once pets. You need to make them as unappealing as possible. Combine the old drugs with waste. Mix them with used kitty litter, dog feces, coffee grounds or anything that would keep someone from reaching in and extracting. Then, put the concoction in a sealed bag and toss it out with you’re regular garbage.
If you’re too squeamish for that idea, many communities have give-back days, during which you can return unused medication to pharmacies. Check with your local health board for more information.