Safe Disposal of Narcotics

June 21, 2016

proper narcotics disposal title

Many people keep old medicines medicine, especially pain killers, because they think they might need them in the future. Keeping old medications can be harmful because as time passes the chemical and physical properties of the medicine might change. For example, the potency of the medication can change, tables can disintegrate and liquids can separate. These changes can potentially dangerous. In addition, when you are prescribed medication, the doctor knows what you were taking at that time. If your medications change or the potency of the old medication is altered, you could develop dangerous interactions.

Opioid Addiction is a Serious Problem

Over the last decade opioid-based medication addiction and overdose has risen drastically. One problem is storage of these potent medicines. A Johns Hopkins survey revealed that out of 1,032 U.S fewer than 10% kept these addictive medications locked up. Nearly half of these patients said that they were provided with no instructions on how to keep the medications properly stored. hen unused opioid-based pain killers, like hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and codeine, are not kept in a safe location, they are susceptible to theft by someone in your household or even a visitor.  It is crucial to keep controlled substances, like pain killers, in a safe place so they don’t get into the wrong hands.

Many survey participants reported that they were planning to or would be willing to share their prescriptions with friends or loved ones that are in pain. This is worrisome, because though they might have good intentions, they are not physicians and could easily be putting others’ lives at risks. They are unlikely to know whether it is safe to provide the medication to someone for whom it was not prescribed due to potential medication interactions or allergies. And remember, narcotic potency can increase with time, meaning that there is a risk of overdose with old medication. Also, keep in mind that sharing a controlled substance is a crime in Pennsylvania.

Why Don’t More People Know How to Dispose of Unused Prescriptions?

Lack of education seems to biggest problem when it comes to knowing what to do with your old medicine. Doctors and pharmacists don’t discuss the importance of disposal. Not sharing drugs and safe storage is also not communicated to patients enough.

How Can I Properly Dispose of My Old Narcotics?

Some narcotics are safe enough to dispose by being flushed down the sink or toilet. Check the FDA’s website for a list of drugs that are approved for disposal by flushing. If your medication is not able to flushed, try to locate a DEA-authorized collector or see if you can locate a National Prescription Drug Take-Back event near you. If neither of these are an option for you, you can dispose of your medication at home.

safe narcotics disposal

If you are unable to flush your medicine, you can dispose of it at home in used coffee grounds or some other unpalatable substance.

Disposing Unused Medication At Home

  1. Mix the medicine (do not crush) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds.
  2. Place the mixture into a disposable container such as a plastic bag.
  3. Throw the container in your household trash.
  4. Scratch out all personal information on your prescription bottles before throwing them away.

When in doubt, discuss proper disposal procedures with your pharmacist. Some pharmacies even have return programs through the mail; you send your unused medication in an envelope provided by the pharmacy to an outside business and they dispose of it for you. Check with your local pharmacy to see if they offer such service. The envelope is usually free, however the disposal process may have a small fee.

Remember, disposing of your leftover prescriptions, specifically pain killers, is vital. By correctly getting rid of your old medicine you’ll not only be protecting yourself, but also your friends, family and event the environment.


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