During spring cleaning, I think I discovered that I am a veterinary prescription drug hoarder.
Pierre was prescribed an appetite stimulant and then started eating before they were all used. Ashton was prescribed liquid meds and I have to get pills instead. And so on. Pretty soon, we end up with all kinds of leftover medications.
The next logical question is how to get rid of them. Flushing unused medications down the toilet or drain is a bad idea. Water treatment plants are really meant for treating human waste, not for eliminating pharmaceuticals. That means medications flushed down the toilet are going into the environment, where they can sicken or kill wildlife. Drugs thrown into the trash end up in landfills, and those can seep into the environment, too.
The US Geological Survey has already found levels of drugs like antibiotics, hormones, and contraceptives in 80% of the rivers and streams tested in part of a nationwide study.Other studies have shown that fish and other wildlife can be adversely affected by pharmaceuticals, even after the medications are expired.
This Saturday, April 29th, there are drug take-back events across the US to allow you to safely dispose of your medications without endangering the water supply. You can locate an event near you on the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s web site US Drug Enforcement Administration’s web site.
If you need to dispose of medications other times of year, you can:
- Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to ask whether a drug take-back program is available in your community. Some counties hold periodic household hazardous waste collection days, where over-the-counter and prescription drugs are accepted at a set location.
Ask your pharmacist whether he or she knows of any medicine disposal programs in your area.
- Find a local, independent pharmacy in your area who participates in drug disposal through the disposemymeds.com.
- Locate another site in your area accepting drug disposals through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy drug disposal locator.
- Ask your veterinarian. Only vets with state or federal authorization to collect medications for disposal can take back medication, but your vet might know of one.
If there aren’t any drug take-back events in your area, you can purchase special postage-paid packages from your local pharmacy that send medications back to a medical waste company. Some medications are ineligible for this program, so read the fine print before you purchase.
You can use most of these same resources for disposing of human medications, too, except your veterinarian is not likely to be able to help with unused human medications.
Let’s keep things that don’t belong in the trash out of it, including medications.
Reference and further reading
US Environmental Protection Agency, Contaminants of Concern Including Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care ProductsContaminants of Concern Including Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products
US Geological Survey, Pharmaceuticals, Hormones, and Other Organic Wastewater Contaminants in U.S. Streams
US Department of Justice, National Take-Back Initiative