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How to Dispose of Prescription Drugs

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How to Dispose of Prescription Drugs

In recent years,† scientists have detected trace amounts of more than 150 different human and veterinary medicines in environments as far afield as the Arctic. Eighty percent of the U.S.ís streams and nearly a quarter of the nationís groundwater sampled by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been found to be contaminated with a variety of medications.

In the meantime, according to an AP story, analysis of tap water supplies in major metropolitan areas conducted by the Associated Press has revealed that the water supply in 24 major U.S. cities — serving over 40 million people — are contaminated with trace amounts of pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, anti-seizure medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, psychotropic drugs, and pain medication.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Donít flush old medications! Although much of the pollution comes from the urine of our over-prescribed population, flushing old medication clearly doesn’t help the situation. Individuals aside, one study estimated the nationís nursing homes discard anywhere from $73 million to $378 million worth of drugs a year. Some are incinerated, but many are flushed.

Unused portions of these medicines must be disposed of properly to avoid harm to wildlife, pets, and people.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

156 comments

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8:16AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

I have a large vitamin bottle in which I put all my unused and/or expired meds in and then when it's full, I take it to my pharmacy. THEY have hazardous material containers in which they place THEIR medical/pharmaceutical "waste" That way I feel I have safely gotten rid of all medications I cannot or did not use! That goes for over the counter medications too, by the way.

Of course, while I'm filling the bottle, I store it in a safe place, away from animals, children or anyone who COULD be looking to "score drugs"....lol....I feel this is one of the absolute BEST ways to get rid of those types of items and not have to worry about them!

4:55AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

You say put coffee grounds, cat litter. sawdust in the bag... you neglect to say they should be USED coffee grounds, USED cat litter, WET Sawdust. They have to make the meds unusable. People go through the garbage to get those meds.. they have be deterred. Plane dry coffee grounds, dry cat litter and dry sawdust do nothing.

11:22PM PST on Dec 30, 2013

great to know!

8:32AM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

thanks for sharing

9:00AM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

Thank you

1:15PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

Thanks for the insight on disposing of drugs. Many people do not finish all their meds. I just pulled about 8 bottles out of my medicine cabinet yesterday & wondered what to do with them. Now I have some options. Thanks again.

7:46PM PST on Jan 5, 2012

Great article!

3:04PM PST on Jan 4, 2012

Thank you so much for this very important info!

2:45PM PDT on Aug 12, 2011

Thank you for posting this extremely important information, Melissa. I have read that frogs are having trouble mating because estrogen in birth control pills gets in water and they all end up female! Makes you wonder if this is part of the reason so many boys are "feminized" and men have ED, but many poisons and drugs could do this.

10:22AM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

This is one of those areas that many do not think about but is very important. Thanks for getting the information out to more people.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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