If you feel like an archaeologist every time you see that row of amber pill bottles (what the heck is Furazolidone, and why does it have my name on it?), welcome to being a normal American. When it comes to the mysteries of the medicine cabinet, who among us doesn’t have expired prescriptions, or over the counter drugs, taking up space? The question is, what to do with them?
The dangers of keeping drugs around that you are not actively taking are many: prescription drugs like Adderall or Oxycodone are commonly misused and abused, and present a serious risk. In addition, young children with access to a medicine cabinet might take pills out of curiosity, and could be poisoned by doing so: “Each year in the United States, more than 71,000 children aged 18 and younger are seen in emergency rooms for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs” (disposemymeds.org).
Finally, drugs that are expired may or may not retain their original potency or pose a risk to consumers. The real issue at hand is how to dispose of these medications.
The fact is, each drug is different. Some can be flushed down the toilet, but others pose a danger to our water supply and other environmental balances: “More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world” (disposemymeds.org) This list by the FDA will help you know the difference.
Fortunately there are now formal programs that will accept any medications you no longer want in your home. Participating pharmacies and police departments can accept and properly dispose of drugs any time. Finally, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is September 26, 2015; 10AM to 2PM. You can search this link by zip code to find a local drop-off site near you.
Staying healthy includes being responsible to yourself, your family, and the community; this short video features FDA pharmacists who can explain further: Disposal of Unused Medicines. In the meantime, here’s to your good health!