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Layin’ It on the Line: The importance of disposing of unused medications properly

By Lyle Boss - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Aug 3, 2022

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Lyle Boss

With the opioid crisis sweeping the nation, it is more important than ever to ensure that unused medications are disposed of properly. Unused medications left in home cabinets are among the leading causes of prescription drug abuse and accidental poisonings in children.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drugs are the second most commonly abused category of drugs. About 4.7 million Americans aged 12 and older abused prescription drugs in 2016. Of those, 2 million had an addiction to pain relievers.

Prescription drug abuse isn’t the only threat posed by improperly handled prescription meds. Medication disposal is a growing environmental concern. Every year, tons of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are flushed down toilets or thrown in the trash, ending up in our waterways.

When these drugs enter the water supply, they can wreak havoc on plant and animal life. Fish are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pharmaceuticals, as they absorb chemicals more readily than other animals. As a result, contaminated fish may pass harmful toxins to the animals that eat them, including humans. In addition, drugs in waterways can inhibit the growth of vital aquatic plants, disrupting the food chain and damaging ecosystems.

When should I throw away prescription medication?

  • If the medication is no longer needed or has expired, it should be disposed of properly.
  • If the medication has been damaged or altered, it should not be used and should be disposed of immediately.
  • If the manufacturer has recalled the drug, it should be discarded.

What are the best-recommended methods for safe drug disposal?

Return unused medication to the pharmacy or local law enforcement: Many pharmacies and local law enforcement agencies will take unused or expired medication and dispose of it properly.

Use a drug take-back program: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sponsors National Take-Back Days several times a year, during which people can take their unwanted drugs to designated locations for safe disposal. A quick Google search should do the trick if you’re unsure where to find a drug take-back program near you.

Dispose of drugs in the trash: Mix the medication with an undesirable substance like used coffee grounds or kitty litter and put it in a sealed container before throwing it away. Be sure to remove any personal information from the prescription label first.

Some drugs should not be thrown in the trash because they may pose a unique risk. These include controlled substances, like opioids, and certain hazardous materials, like chemotherapy drugs. Contact your local pharmacy or waste disposal company to find the best way to dispose of these medications.

In summary, it is essential to dispose of unused medications correctly to prevent prescription drug abuse and protect the environment. There are many ways to dispose of prescription medication safely, so be sure to choose the method that best suits your needs. And always remember: When in doubt, throw it out!

Lyle Boss is a member of Syndicated Columnists, a national organization committed to a fully transparent approach to money management. Boss Financial, 955 Chambers St., Suite 250, Ogden, UT 84403. Telephone: 801-475-9400.


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