Monthly Archives: September 2015

Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know

by: David Casaletto, Executive Director, Ozarks Water Watch

Don’t Flush Your Medicines Down the Toilet!

A recent study shows that 80 percent of US streams contain small amounts of human medicines.

  • Sewage systems cannot remove these medicines from water that is released into lakes, rivers or oceans.
  • Fish and other aquatic animals have shown adverse effects from medicines in the water.
  • And, even very small amounts of medicine have been found in drinking water.

You would think everyone would at least say “Don’t Flush”, but it turns out that on the Federal Drug Administration’s website they actually have a list of drugs that they say is OK to flush. I am not real thrilled with that….1f566c02-5a5c-453a-bdc0-991987769707

The California State Board of Pharmacy published a nice fact sheet and their first recommendation is to dispose of Rx in the trash. They even give step by step instructions on how to dispose medications at home:

  • Keep medicine in its original child-resistant container.
  • Scratch or markout the patient information on the label.
  • Place some water into solid medications, such as pills or capsules.
  • Then add something nontoxic and unpalatable such as sawdust, kitty litter, charcoal, Comet® or powdered spices (like, cayenne pepper).
  • Close and seal the container lids tightly with packing or duct tape.
  • If discarding blister packs of unused medicines, wrap in multiple layers of duct tape.
  • Place medicine containers in durable packaging that does not show what’s inside (like, a cardboard box).
  • Place in the trash close to garbage pickup time.

While some say drugs can be thrown in the trash, I think there is a safer way. Returning your unwanted medicines to a take-back program is the safest and most environmentally protective way to dispose of unused medication. Trash disposal should ONLY be used as a “last resort” option.


The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has increased focus on this issue by instituting nationwide pharmaceutical “Take Back Days“. By making it easier for people to dispose of their medicines safely, the DEA has collected millions of pounds of drugs as a result of this program. In fact, the DEA and local law enforcement are coordinating a nationwide drug “take-back” day on September 26th from 10 am to 2 pm. This one-day event will provide you with no cost anonymous collection of unwanted and expired medicines. On their website is a search button. Just enter your zip code for the nearest site. I did a 100 mile search of my home and found over 50 take-back sites including Branson, Springfield, Bentonville, Rogers, and Springdale. (Most of these sites are available at anytime.)

Keep drugs out of the wrong hands and out of our waters!