The Monster in Your Medicine Cabinet

So, what do YOU do with your old expired or unused medications? Flush them, right? WRONG. It has been found that while this practice protects those in your home from accidentally ingesting the bad drugs, it does not protect fish, or other marine wildlife that may be exposed to them later. Another problem…if the water contaminated by your meds does eventually get reused, humans can be exposed to certain chemicals in those medications. Not, good. Not, good.

So, what do you do with your old medicines? You can’t just leave them in the medicine cabinet. Not only does that take up space you could use for other things, it also leaves potentially dangerous drugs sitting around where anyone can get a hold of them. Definitely not a good idea when you aren’t the only one in the house. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, more Americans abuse prescription drugs than people using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined (2011). Much of the time these medications are obtained from the family medicine cabinet. Another horrible thought…what could possibly happen if a child got a hold of your old meds, and decided to take a few, or more? It doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

So, if you can’t flush them, and you can’t keep them, where does that leave you? No need to worry, there are things that you can do. The best option by far is to see if your local community has drop-off days or places for old medicines. Sometimes there will be multiple drop-off spots that you can choose from. Just drive by the drop-off, and say good-bye to those dangerous drugs!

If absolutely no drop-offs are available, you could still toss your old meds in the trash. Just follow these precautions when you do:

1. Keep medicine in its original container, and cover the patient’s name with a marker, but not the information denoting what the drug is.

2. Modify the contents to make them unappealing to those who might want to take them. This might mean adding some vinegar to your pill container in order to semi-dissolve the meds.

3. Tape the container shut, and place the container in a bag or other package that no one can see through. This may keep those who might be looking for meds, from finding them.

4. Finally, toss in trash.

The best option for med disposal is, of course, to find a drop-off site. If that fails, take the above precautions, and then toss. Whatever you choose to do, do NOT flush your medications down the toilet.

For more information on this topic, read:

For more information on what to do with other household medical waste, read: