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To Flush or Not To Flush

Posted Oct 30 2009 11:00pm

FDA lists meds for trash or toilet.

A recent post here on the subject of illegal bong water in Minnesota—coupled with a perceptive comment by a reader about drugs in the water supply—got me thinking again about what gets thrown in the sink or flushed down the toilet.

I was surprised to discover that, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumers are better served by flushing some drugs down the toilet. The FDA has put up a web site dedicated to the proposition that flushing drugs is the preferred method for certain kinds of drugs—but not for every kind of drug.

While noting that “flushing is not recommended for the vast majority of medicines,” the FDA asserts at druginfo@fda.hhs.gov that “certain medicines may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal in a single dose...” To dangerous, in other words, to leave around the house or in the trash.

The potential for fatal overdose, particularly with prescription morphine and its derivatives, suggests that flushing will be the preferred method of disposal unless or until communities and pharmaceutical companies get serious about take-back programs and other medicine disposal services.

Specifically, drugs recommended for flushing include:

-- Morphine Sulfate (Morphine, Avinza, Embeda, Kadian, MS Contin, and Oramorph).

-- Fentanyl Citrate (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Onsolis).

-- Meperidine Hydrochloride (Demerol).

-- Methylphenidate (Daytrana).

-- Hydromorphone Hydrochloride (Dilaudid).

-- Methadone Hydrochloride (Methadone, Methadose, Dolophine).

-- Oxymorphone Hydrochloride (Opana).

-- Oxycodone Hydrochloride (Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan).

-- Sodium Oxybate (Xyrem).

The FDA says that the disposal of “these select, few medicines by flushing contributes only a small fraction of the total amount of medicine found in the water. FDA believes that any potential risk to people and the environment from flushing this small, select list of medicines is outweighed by the real possibility of life-threatening risks from accidental ingestion of these medicines.”

The preferred disposal method for all other drugs, says the FDA, is to mix them with kitty litter or coffee grounds, place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag, and throw the container in your household trash.

Photo Credit: www.pri.org

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