Although medicines are necessary for treating diseases and conditions, they must be handled with care. Medicines can be particularly harmful if they are not disposed of properly. Most medicines can be disposed of with household trash. However, it is recommended that they be mixed with something inedible such as soiled pet litter or coffee grounds and then securely sealed in a plastic bag or container. This will keep the medications away from pets, young children, and anyone else that may discover them in the garbage.
Medicines that are particularly harmful or that may cause fatalities if taken improperly should be disposed of with great caution. The FDA recommends that unused or expired medicines that are potentially harmful or addictive be flushed down a toilet or sink. However, not all medicines should be disposed of by flushing. The patient should have received disposal information about individual medications when he or she had his or her prescription filled.
Drug take-back programs are another safe disposal method. However, each city/county may have certain regulations about what medications can be taken back. Local pharmacists should be able to give the patient information about these programs. The FDA is currently working with drug manufacturers on other safe disposal methods.
Although trace amounts of medicines have been discovered in the water system, it is not believed to be the result of flushing unwanted drugs. Scientists have proven that medicine found in water is largely due to the body’s natural elimination processes. Also, medications that remain in the patient’s home are much more dangerous to both humans and animals than the minuscule amounts that are found in water.
The FDA recommends that the following medicines be disposed of by flushing:
Xyrem oral solution
Oramorph RS sustained release tablets
Opana ER extended release tablets
Opana immediate release tablets
Onsolis soluble film
MS Contin extended release tablets
Morphine Sulfate immediate release tablets and oral solution
Methadone Hydrochloride oral solution
Kadian extended release capsules
Exlago extended release tablets
Embeda extended release capsules
Duragesic extended release patches
Dolophine Hydrochloride tablets
Dilaudid tablets and oral liquid
Diastat rectal gel
Demoral tablets and oral solution
Avinza extended release capsules
Actiq oral transmucosal lozenges