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Medication disposal  RSS feed

 
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Not sure if this is best thread for this post.

Really curious to hear what people think, though. I've read about various options for disposal of old medications. Someone left a bottle of liquid cold medicine in our van. It's old and I have no use for it. Rather than just throwing it in the trash, only for it to end up in the hands of some meth head, I'd like to do something better than that. I'm thinking of pouring it into cat litter and then disposing of it, but if anyone has a good idea, let's hear it! Thanks!
 
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thats a tough one. our waterways are getting polluted with all kinds of things including medications. who knows what impact that stuff has on flora and fauna. it seems unrealistic for us to all know which meds will break down readily and which ones won't. there are regularly 'collections' for toxic non trash items such as oil and chemicals as well as medications i believe. but what are THEY going to do with it? I guess they would probably dump it in an area that is supposed to be contained......but that still doesnt' sound like a particluarly good solution. I would be hesitant to just trash it also, although the likelihood of a meth cook actually finding it in some trash heap is probably pretty small and they have (of course) found ways around the restrictions on ephedrine anyway.
 
Gwen Lynn
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Well, yesterday, we cleaned out the cat boxes. I poured it into a bag that was filled with used cat litter & feces and that will go in the trash. Couldn't think of anything else safer to do with it. I have read that some pharmacies will take old meds, but you raised a good point. What do they do with it?
 
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Location: Malmö, Sweden
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Always leave it where you bought it. If you found it, leave it to the nearest pharmacy. Recycle stations have special receptacles for this sort of thing also.
Whatever you do, do NOT put it in the litterbox! (Where would you get such an idea)
 
Gwen Lynn
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Well, I didn't put it IN a litterbox, that would be stupid!

I poured it into some USED cat litter that was already in a plastic bag which was headed for the trash. Reason being is it was liquid cold medicine that I didn't want some already drugged out person/kid to find and consume.

My first priority, was to not let it fall into the wrong hands or allow it to be flushed down a toilet, which may have very well happened if I took it to a pharmacy. Sure, they might have taken it for me, but as Leah pointed out, what would they do with it? I've heard of pharmacies (who do accept old meds) flushing them because they are NOT set-up to dispose of them properly. It's a dirty little secret! 

At the time, I'm pretty sure I read that medication disposal regulations vary from state to state. I haven't had a chance to specifically research it in our state, but being as Oklahoma is sooooooo very far behind in recycling aluminum, glass, plastic, etc. (They do not pick them up at your home as other states do. We have to take them elsewhere to be recycled.)

I highly doubt that a pharmacy would accept this generic, non-prescription cold med, especially if it didn't come from their store.
 
Patrick Storm
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Location: Malmö, Sweden
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Well, I didn't put it IN a litterbox, that would be stupid!

hahaha yeah that would indeed be stupid 

Ok. Over here it's illegal to flush down, or dispose of old meds in the trash, and the ONLY places you may leave them are at the (any) pharmacy or the recycling center. Putting them in cat litter that's heading for the trash, is pretty much the same as putting them directly into the trash... And probably just as bad as flushing them down the drain / toilet, wouldn't you say?

Anyway I found this site which lists recycling centers in Oklahoma, but it doesn't say where to leave meds, so I emailed them for you. Will get back with an answer as soon as I get it.
http://www.metrecycle.com/recycling/directory/

By the way I also found this site, where among other things you can learn how to defend (!) recycling if you should ever be harassed about doing it 
http://www.recycleok.org/
 
Gwen Lynn
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Yes, we go to the Met with our recyclables. I think pouring that liquid med in the cat litter was the lesser of too evils, when compared it to dumping it down the drain or toilet. Just IMO.

Having been to the Met for years and years, I would be downright shocked to find out that they'd dispose of medications. I've been over their site and didn't seen anything on it regarding meds. I'm pretty sure I called a local pharmacy when I originally posted this and was told they'd just flush it.

There is no doubt, other cities/states have more laws and more convenience regarding recycling, than we do here. 
 
pollinator
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ask the pharmacist where and how to dispose..do not flush
 
Gwen Lynn
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I probably should have made this clear from the git-go, but it's been a while since I first made this post and I'd forgotten. (Menopausal brain here.)

Originally, I did call the pharmacy. They told me they used to advise people to flush medications, but recent water studies show all the residual meds in the water, etc. So they don't advise that anymore. Their advice was to make it "un-consumable" and dispose of in the trash. So that's why I poured it in the dirty cat litter.

Today I called the pharmacy again, mostly because I just couldn't remember whether or not I called them 6 months ago. By the time I heard the same advice, I remembered that I'd heard it all before. That's what prompted me to post this in the first place, looking for other ideas.

So actually, the pharmacies in Okla. are of no help at all.
 
pollinator
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Most medication should be compostable. Lithium and radioactive iodine are two prominent counterexamples. I'm not comfortable with antibiotics in the compost, but better there than a CAFO: multiple-drug-resistant thermophylic compost bacteria scare me less than their Staph. aureus counterparts. In cases where the meds have no Cl, F, Br, or I in their chemical structure, incineration is probably OK too.

I'm not sure there's a good general solution, given that such a wide variety of substances are used in medicine.

I think almost all the medication in waterways has already passed through a human kidney and some sort of treatment plant. Advising people not to flush un-used medication is public relations, not epidemiology.
 
Patrick Storm
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Location: Malmö, Sweden
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Here's the reply anyway:



Hello,
We do a "residential" collection of pollutants twice a year at the the
fairgrounds - expo square (gate 7).  Our next event to collect medicines and
other chemicals is April 17-18, 2010 from 10 am to 3 pm.

Thanks for checking,
Terrie
Met Staff
 
Leah Sattler
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
I think almost all the medication in waterways has already passed through a human kidney and some sort of treatment plant. Advising people not to flush un-used medication is public relations, not epidemiology.



that makes alot of sense to me. it makes it sound like they are concerned when agencies tell people not to flush it but that may be nothing more then trying to appease peoples worries and might have little practical thinking behind it. the real problem with meds in water is that so many people are taking meds.  I am not sure what the difference would be to take it internally and then flush it later. surely all the microbes in black water could play a role in breakingthem down and if purification process won't take the meds out, microbes and the human kidneys and liver won't either, then I think we are just outa luck  I am sure some meds make it more intact through the body then others I suppose but does it change anything in the long run?

 
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wait are we talking about Drugs 
or are we talking about Drugs 
lol
 
                          
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Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia
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i think they may be talking about medication drugs, those who choose to use the other type dont usually wish to flush them unless there is a nasty police man knocking at the door
 
Gwen Lynn
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Referring specifically to old, unused medications. Anti-depressants, cholesterol meds, etc. I'm certainly not a scientist and am a little confused. One thing is sure. The pharmacies around here don't want to be bothered.

If there's a problem with levels of, say, "prozac" in the water because it's being excreted in urine, wouldn't dumping the pills and flushing them just add to the existing problem?  Or is there no real problem?

I'm pretty sure I saw something in the media about fish/frogs being tested, and meds were found in their systems. I can't remember the details though.

I just want to do the right thing here, ya know? 
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Ok, so if you need anti-depressants, move to Seattle and drink the water .  If you need hormones go to San Fran.........   I suppose technically, flushing them will only add to the meds in the water.  However, there really isn't a good way to get rid of lots of excess unused meds (same as with batteries.)

(aside from the scary radio active stuff)
I agree that the likely best way to get rid of them with the least impact to the greater environment and water supply is gonna be composting.  Hopefully you are not disposing of huge amount of meds on a regular basis.

If you must dispose of them other than in compost, rendering them unusable (like in the scooped kitty litter) and putting in the trash will at least keep some one from doing something bad with them.
 
Gwen Lynn
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TCLynx wrote:
Hopefully you are not disposing of huge amount of meds on a regular basis.



Rest easy, I'm personally not disposing of huge amounts of meds on a regular basis, but something tells me other people are. In one way or another! 
 
Gwen Lynn
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Paddy82 wrote:
Here's the reply anyway:

Hello,
We do a "residential" collection of pollutants twice a year at the the
fairgrounds - expo square (gate 7).  Our next event to collect medicines and
other chemicals is April 17-18, 2010 from 10 am to 3 pm.

Thanks for checking,
Terrie
Met Staff



Thanks, Paddy!

I'm familiar with this event at the fairgrounds. Problem is...we don't live in Tulsa, and I think you have to prove city residency. I could probably convince a friend of mine to go up there with me, and he does live in Tulsa. The fairgrounds is about 12 - 13 miles from my home, not the most convenient location, but not the worst either.

Soooo...I'd have to talk someone (who can prove residency in Tulsa) to go along, and of course it HAS to be this specific weekend or you must wait until the next one. This is my main gripe. It's inconvenient for many people. Even more so than myself. Until areas across the country make it more easier & more accessible for people to properly dispose of problem waste...most people won't bother. And that's a real bummer. 
 
Patrick Storm
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Location: Malmö, Sweden
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If there's a problem with levels of, say, "prozac" in the water because it's being excreted in urine, wouldn't dumping the pills and flushing them just add to the existing problem? Or is there no real problem?



As I said before, that would be just as bad. If you use the medicine it will end up in the drain sooner or later. Substances that aren't absorbed by the body are excreted. Compared to pouring the contents of the bottle into the toilet there is no real difference other than that you "dose" it out over a longer period of time if you use it first. And if there are absobant components those will stay in your body. Hormones don't though (like adrenaline). As soon as they are in the blood they are used and discarded through the urine.

I'm pretty sure I saw something in the media about fish/frogs being tested, and meds were found in their systems. I can't remember the details though.



Yes fish and frogs get bad deformities from the hormones in the various medicines we humans use, i.e. anti- depressants, birth control pills etc. Most of which come from toilet bowls, either with urine or in pure form. Males with female reproduction organs and vice versa. Frogs with three legs or only one leg. Siamese twins etc. Really horrible. And for a group of animals such as amphibians who are already undergoing mass extinction, it's disastrous. For more info on this watch "The thin green line" video.

I agree that the likely best way to get rid of them with the least impact to the greater environment and water supply is gonna be composting.



Do NOT compost it!! The meds are not organic and will not compost! They will dissolve, but will not compost. However the consequences of you composting them will mainly affect yourself and your own garden. Either way though, it will STILL end up in the ground water or a stream, and do just as much damage as if you flushed them. It may well will bacteria and worms down low in the food chain (possibly killing your compost and thereby making it useless), but may echo further up the chain as well. It all depends on the components and their effect on the species that consumes it.
The same thing goes for the "kitty litter method". It will end up in a landfill (or out in the pacific ocean garbage patch), and the rain will put it in the groundwater or another body of water. The effect is the exact same.

This is why most countries (states) have methods for dealing with old meds. Unfortunately you can't take care of used meds filtered through your body, but the unused stuff should be handed back to the place of purchase and the place of purchase should have ways of properly disposing of it. It's a shame if that's not the case where you are, I really thought the US would have this implemented by now, it's 2010 for god sake!

Anyway, I want to leave you with some constructivism. Either you recycle it yourself, that is use it next time you're ill, or give them to someone who is ill. Hopefully your body absorbs most of the contents. Or, don't do anything with it. Leave it on a shelf and forget about it until there is a way of disposing it. Not great advice I know, but as long as you have no way of recycling it, there's no other environmentally aware thing to do. Write a senator maybe, It's really outrageous you are in this situation, and something should definately be done about it. Be the person who takes the step forward.
Another thing is to be conservative and aware next time you need to shop for meds. Get the smaller sized packet. Look at the labels. Avoid hormonal meds if you can. Avoid meds with other bad components. Read up on them before you buy them. If they're prescription, ask for alternatives.

I suspect you think that the MET will flush it? I have no idea if they will or not, I just think it's crazy if they would. The US seems more and more like a wonderland to me... And not in the good way, I'm sorry to say.




 
Patrick Storm
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Sorry, didn't see your last post before posting my last.
Yeah I bet it's out of the way. But you know what I'd do if I were you? Whenever I had meds left over I'd save 'em all in one place, and the next time I went to Tulsa I'd bring 'em along. Check their website or email them for more dates.
 
                          
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i think if people do go to the trouble of returning meds that they are incinerated along with other medical wastes such as syringes, and infected materials and blood wastes
 
                              
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Here is the information currently being used in many places.
http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/pdf/prescrip_disposal.pdf
 
                              
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And seeing as much of the stuff taken to the "drop offs" area likely either flushed or disposed of into landfills.  I would personally rather dispose of into compost that minimizes leaching into the ground water.  Seeing as we humanure compost, we are already putting any medications we take into the compost and thus minimizing (or at least greatly slowing) the amount of those residues getting back to the water supplies.
 
                          
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so hide in PLASTIC and send to land fill?
 
                              
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I'm not saying it is right, I'm just saying that is what is being done!
 
                          
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I realise that ,but honestly surely human kind should be over the wrap everything in plastic and send it to landfill mentality
 
                              
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I fear that most of the industrialized world has forgotten that there is no "away"  flushing away and throwing away doesn't really get rid of a problem, just puts it out of sight for the most part.  But many of those same people are horrified by the prospect of doing something like "humanure composting" because they could "get sick" from it.  They don't understand that flushing it or throwing it away is simply hiding the issue from one's self.

Same with the medication or most any other possible pollutant.  Finding truely ecological ways to dispose of these things is actually a pretty major challenge.  Some things more than others of course.  Most regulations having to do with disposing of medications properly have far more to do with keeping the medications from being abused or accidentally taken by children or pets.

So even if your location has some waste service that does collect old medications for disposal, what do you really think they are doing with them (I expect that for the most part they are probably sealed up and put in the landfill?)  Please if anyone knows what actually gets done with the collected medications let us know.  If anyone knows of a truly harmless way to properly dispose of particular medications, let us know (this one probably requires pretty comprehensive knowledge of the chemistry involved.)  I have an uncle and cousin who are chemists, perhaps they could shed some light for me.
 
                          
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TCLynx wrote:
I fear that most of the industrialized world has forgotten that there is no "away"  flushing away and throwing away doesn't really get rid of a problem, just puts it out of sight for the most part.  But many of those same people are horrified by the prospect of doing something like "humanure composting" because they could "get sick" from it.  They don't understand that flushing it or throwing it away is simply hiding the issue from one's self.

Same with the medication or most any other possible pollutant.  Finding truely ecological ways to dispose of these things is actually a pretty major challenge.  Some things more than others of course. 

So even if your location has some waste service that does collect old medications for disposal, what do you really think they are doing with them (I expect that for the most part they are probably sealed up and put in the landfill?)  Please if anyone knows what actually gets done with the collected medications let us know.  If anyone knows of a truly harmless way to properly dispose of particular medications, let us know (this one probably requires pretty comprehensive knowledge of the chemistry involved.)  I have an uncle and cousin who are chemists, perhaps they could shed some light for me.


HEAR HEAR never a truer word spoken
 
Gwen Lynn
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Bird wrote:
i think if people do go to the trouble of returning meds that they are incinerated along with other medical wastes such as syringes, and infected materials and blood wastes



It's my understanding that they only have recycling events for certain items (like meds) twice a year. I go to Tulsa on a regular basis, just not that part of Tulsa. Because I can't prove residency in Tulsa, it might be more inconvenient. I didn't mean to imply that I knew what the Met would do with the meds. I have no idea.

I am constantly amazed at what I see people do in my own neighborhood and in other places. It's insane. I've seen people dumping used antifreeze in street water sewers. I know people that pour used motor oil into the sand on their property. They don't want to see the problem in it at all. I have pointed it out to people, only to have my point brushed aside.
 
Gwen Lynn
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AP news story regarding this subject:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100207/ap_on_sc/us_pharmawater_landfills
 
                    
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From the article Gwen just posted:

That landfill water — known as leachate — eventually ends up in rivers. Most of Maine doesn't draw its drinking water from rivers where the leachate ends up, but in other states that do, water supplies that come from rivers could potentially be contaminated.



and

"The amounts of pharmaceuticals (in the environment) are infinitesimally small," said Marjorie Powell, senior assistant general counsel. "We're talking about two drops in an Olympic-size swimming pool. Those two drops are much lower than any doses that would have an effect on humans."



Once again, the only reassurance the people in charge can come up with is:  Everyone's water isn't contaminated - yet.  And, it's only a little bit! 

I have a hard time believing that "just a little" bit doesn't do anything to us, especially when ingested every day and over a lifetime.  Especially during the period of life when you weigh less than 50 pounds.  Homeopathic medicines work on the principle that a little bit of a substance can actually stimulate a body in major ways. 

The first time I heard a well-educated person teaching people about how the various medications in our waterways are affecting us, she said (paraphrasing) "We have permanently altered our endocrine systems....." and then had to pause, because she had begun to weep.  One of those things you don't quickly forget. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Paddy82 wrote:Do NOT compost it!! The meds are not organic and will not compost!



Some meds are inorganic (I already mentioned lithium and radioactive iodine), and some are not biodegradable even though they contain some C, H, N, O, etc. But to my knowledge, there are quite a number of synthetic chemicals that are biodegradable. Quite a few are even metabolized by people. It really all depends on which medication we're discussing.

Some prescription medications are sourced from living things: digoxin, cocaine, insulin, botox, morphine, codeine, penicillin, to name just a few.
 
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