Thursday, November 19, 2009

Getting Rid of Those Pesky Meds

Good Morning!  Well, once again my family has given me the direction in which I should blog today, I just love that!  Of course with writing a "green" blog, I get a lot of questions about recycling and all sorts of other green habits; but the one my Mom asked me, regarding how to get rid of unused medication really had me stumped.  So... of course I did some research on how to dispose of medications properly.
The EPA has a website that is pretty full of information. It has a list of drugs that are safe to flush, and points out that many drugs have this information on the bottle or in its paperwork.  When in doubt, do NOT flush it, and this applies to all over the counter medicine as well.  I was really surprised to find out that if you have no other options, put the medication in a sealed container with something yucky, like coffee grounds or kitty litter and then put it in the trash. 
Interestingly enough, many states are just now coming up with ways to donate your medicine, which I was sorry to hear.  With as many people as there are who can't afford their medicine, it seems like a great idea.  This is what Louise at the Colorado Health Insurance Insider had to say:
I’m very curious about how the whole thing works. The donated medications can come from medical providers or individuals, but have to be unopened and sealed, and are checked by pharmacists to ensure safety. But who has unused medications sitting around? I know lots of people might have a few pain pills left over from a surgery, but they usually use at least a few pills out of the bottle first. As for medical offices and hospitals, wouldn’t they have a steady stream of need for the medications already? I think it’s a great idea to donate and recycle unused medications – I’m a big fan of donating and recycling just about everything – I’m just not sure where the supply is coming from. But it seems to be coming from somewhere – in states like WY and IA, drug recycling programs have netted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medications for uninsured residents who would otherwise likely have gone without their prescriptions. So far, at least 33 states have passed laws allowing for donation, recycling, and reuse or prescriptions, and these programs are still new – many are in testing and pilot stages, so the full potential is far from realized. It sure beats having the drugs just go to waste in a corner somewhere.
I stringly agree with this opinion.  It would even be worth going through the red tape if we knew the meds weren't going to waste.  I did read a couple of places that organizations like UNICEF take life saving prescriptions to third world countries whose population really needs them.  To be honest, their website was just way too slow to load and didn't have a very good search engine, so I moved on.  It was a little bothersome to me that there really is not a definitive answer as to WHERE to donate your unused meds, and even if you do there are many rules regarding this, like they need to be unopened-What?
So, I guess for now these are the best steps to take if you have medicine that is expired or unused:
  1. Check the EPA website and see if your medication is on the list of things that are safe to flush.
  2. Hope that your state is one of the ones with a recycling program and take it there.
  3. Talk with your Pharmacist, he/she may have a recycling program, or may let you bring it in for them to put in their hazardous material disposal.
  4. If all else fails, try the kitty litter method.
  5. ALWAYS remove the label on the bottle, no matter how you are disposing of it.  Most medicine bottles that I have come across are recyclable, so toss the bottle in the recycling and get rid of the medicine separately.
We really do not want these contaminants in our water, be it ground water or drinking water.  The impact on the environment is still unknown, but medications show up in drinking water all over the world.  As for the ground water, we all know how contamination of it can lead to problems throughout the entire eco-system.  And, shamefully enough, we have to worry about people or kids taking medication that they have no idea what it is.  Recently I heard that identity theft is even becoming a problem; with people taking your personal information off of an old prescription bottle.  What is this world coming to?
I hope this helps, Mom; thanks for the idea!
Make a miracle today!

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