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How to dispose of drugs safely

How many times does the live-in carer arrive at a placement to find that there are expired medications all over the house! You may find them stashed in the strangest places but often they will be in the kitchen or bathroom cabinets, at the back, forgotten and unused.

Now, while many of our older clients keep medicine ‘just in case it comes in handy one day’, the truth is that medication is prescribed for one person, and for that person alone. What is good for one person may actually harm another.

How can we dispose of these old medications safely?

  • Take back organisations
  • Disposing at home

Take back organisations

A take back organisation is a place where you can safely leave old medications. Pharmacies are good examples of this, although you may also be able to drop off at hospitals. Some pharmacies will have a drop box where you can deposit any medications, while others ask that they are all itemised. You should also make it known if you are delivering sharps to them.

Disposing at home

There are some drugs which can be flushed down the toilet or the sink. It depends on the drug, and you should always check the label before flushing any medication.

Disposing in the regular rubbish is a second option which if you have nowhere to drop them off. The list of things that can be disposed of in the regular rubbish includes over the counter drugs in pills, liquids and creams. It will never include those items which are on the flushing list.

If you are disposing of medication at home through the regular rubbish then you are advised to:

  • Mix with something undesirable such as used coffee grounds or even garden soil. This makes things less appealing to pets, and also to anyone who goes through rubbish in search of drugs
  • Place in a resealable bag to prevent any leakage
  • Throw the container out in the rubbish
  • Scratch out any personal information empty packaging before you add it to the rubbish bag

How do we dispose of Fentanyl patches?

The FDA recommends that these patches are disposed of as soon as they are removed. You should fold the patch in half so that the sticky sides are together and flush them down the toilet right away. They should not be placed in the regular rubbish where children and pets can access them.

How do we dispose of used inhalers?

Anyone who suffers from asthma will have inhalers which eventually empty and need to be disposed of. Never puncture an inhaler, even if it is empty. The rules and regulations vary from city to city so the best way to know where to dispose of inhalers is to ask the local pharmacy. They will be able to advise you where in your area you can dispose of them.

Final thoughts

If you are in any way unsure of how to safely dispose of old and unused medication then it is best to call the pharmacy and discuss it with them. They may ask you to bring all medications to them, with a list of what they are. You should make them aware of any sharp things that are included.

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