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Don’t Flush Those Meds! Dispose of Old Medications Safely

Posted Sep 25 2009 10:12pm


Longmont United Hospital, our local hospital, is having its annual “pharmaceutical take-back day” tomorrow from 8-2 pm just inside the main entrance, and it’s free.

Don’t flush your medications as they go into your water systems and we ALL get to share in the cocktail of pharma for years to come. YIKES! Think estrogen . . . seen any man-boobs lately? I rest my case!! Read more below.

Check with your local hospitals and see if they can take your unused and unwanted medications to dispose of properly.


1. DO NOT Flush Them Down the Toilet or Pour Down the Sink

Why? Experts say it may have potential harmful effects on the environment and to us. Disposal via the toilet takes your drugs into the local sewage system. Modern water treatment plants are not fully designed to deal with medication disposal. The long-term health risks posed by consumption of even minute quantities of these medications in drinking water and the full extent of environmental damage remains unknown. 

Plus, these drugs can leach into the local water table, eventually coming out somewhere, like a nearby lake or stream, or even worse out onto your own property, where pets, livestock or wildlife could be at risk.

2. Don’t Throw Them Into the Trash

Safety experts say “no.” First, kids and pets can find them. Then, your trash will eventually make it to a local landfill, where your medications could still have the potential to leach out (see water above).

DO THIS: Many municipal or local trash services now have local household waste facilities where you can safely drop off your medications for incineration. Call your local trash service for options in your area.

3. Return Them to Your Pharmacy

Pharmacies are not required to take back your unused medications, but some will.

DO THIS: Check with your local pharmacies and drugstore chains as some do sponsor regular “clean out your medicine cabinet” drives where customers can return old, expired or unused medications, supplements and other over-the-counter products. Call your local drugstore or pharmacy for options in your area.

4. Return Them to Your Doctor

Not all physicians or doctor offices will take them. Some may not be fully prepared to safely handle the process.

DO THIS: Call ahead to see if your doctor can offer safer medication disposal methods. Plus, as in the beginning article above, check with your local hospital to find out if they have a “take back” day.

 5. Sell them.

Nooooooo! I’m just kidding! But, I know that crossed your mind, right?!

There are plenty of people who have 18+ gallon tubs of bottles filled with medications that “were just not the right one” before the doctor changed the script one more time. It’s very frustrating, not to mention costly, however clean out your tubs and dispose of properly. Let - it - go! See #’s 1-4 above.

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