Disposing of Medicine and Other Health Products

Modern medicine, sterile medical products, and medical equipment have become major defenses against illness and disease that in the past would have resulted in the deaths of countless people in the United States and abroad. In countries like the United States, most individuals have varying degrees of access to the medicine and supplies that they need. When they are not used, they, like most expired or unneeded items, must be disposed of. However, getting rid of one’s medical items, particularly drugs and items such as syringes, isn’t as simple as tossing them in the trash. These items must be disposed of carefully and properly, as medicines can cause severe reactions or even death in those they were not intended for. Improper disposal can also result in pollution of the water supply. And syringes and other injectables can spread diseases or injure humans and animals. With proper education on the right techniques for disposal, the chances of causing an accidental death or injury can be minimized.

How to Throw Away Old Medicines

It isn’t uncommon for people to find themselves in a situation where they have medications to dispose of. These medicines may be expired, or they may no longer be required for one’s course of treatment. In these situations, one should first prepare the bottle for disposal. To do this, start by emptying the medicine into a container or a plastic bag without crushing the capsules or pills. Find an unappealing substance to mix with the medicine so that it is covered completely. This can be coffee grounds, dirt, cat litter, or anything else that may prevent someone from taking the medicine. This bag or container should then be tossed into the garbage. Prescription bottles should also be properly prepared before they are disposed of. This involves blocking out one’s name, address, and all prescription information with a permanent marker. One should not flush medicines, as drugs can pollute the waterways; however, there are certain medicines for which the government recommends flushing as the proper means of disposal. Check the bottle before disposal to ensure that the medicine does not fall into that category.

If uncomfortable with tossing unused medications in the trash, one may check with drug stores or local pharmacies and ask if they have disposal programs. People can also check with their pharmacy or doctor to find if and when there is a take-back event in their area. These events are sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and are a place for individuals to dispose of their unused drugs in a safe way.

How to Dispose of Injectable Products

One doesn’t need to be a nurse to use injectable products. People may use these items at home to pierce or puncture the skin for injections or for testing such as checking one’s blood sugar. These products include syringes, auto-injectors, and lancets. To prevent someone from accidentally being stuck, these items should be placed into a plastic, puncture-proof container. FDA-approved sharps containers are the appropriate containers for injectables. These are available at pharmacies, medical facilities, and medical supply companies. If one is unable to get an FDA-approved container, use a container made of heavy-duty plastic. These should be dropped off at approved collection locations such as pharmacies or hospitals.

How to Donate Unused Items

For some people, throwing medication away may seem wasteful, but for safety purposes, unused prescription drugs cannot be donated. In some states, however, one can donate unused over-the-counter medicines if they meet the requirements that are set by the state. Typically, medicine must be in its original, sealed packaging and not expired. Other medical products are much more readily accepted by charities and other organizations that collect donated medical supplies, including unused items such as diabetes test strips, alcohol swabs, sterile gauze, gloves, surgical tape, diapers, and nursing pads. Sealed products such as inhalers and injectable supplies may also be donated depending on the center’s requirements.