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Pharmaceutical Waste:

Disposing of unwanted medications at home

What's the problem?

Expired or unwanted prescription or over-the-counter medications from households have traditionally been disposed of by flushing them down the toilet or a drain. Although this method of disposal prevents immediate accidental ingestion, it can cause pollution in wastewater, which has been demonstrated to cause adverse effects to fish and other aquatic wildlife. When the water is eventually reused, it can also cause unintentional human exposure to chemicals in medications.

Disposing of medications at home.

Your unwanted medications may be disposed of in your trash.
Follow these precautions to prevent accidental or intentional ingestion.

  1. Keep the medication in its original container.
    The labels may contain safety information and the caps are typically childproof. Leaving the content information clearly visiible, scratch the patient's name out or cover it over with permanent marker.
  2. Modify the medications to discourage consumption.
    For solid medications, such as pills or capsules: add a small amount of water to at least partially dissolve them.
    For liquid medications: add enough table salt, flour, charcoal, or nontoxic powdered spice, such as turmeric or mustard to make a pungent, unsightly mixture that discourages anyone from eating it.
    For blister packs: wrap the blister packages containing pills in multiple layers of duct or other opaque tape.

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