What do you do when expensive medications are no longer needed or they have reached their expiration date? It may seem strange to throw away something that requires a trip to the doctor to get. But many of us have a cabinet full of these unused items. Disposal can be a challenge.
So what do we do with these substances to keep them out of our waste stream, yet out of our cabinets? The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will be held this year on April 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It provides a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs. Last year, almost 900,000 pounds of unwanted drugs were turned in during this campaign.
Drugs can be dropped off at the Alaska State Troopers, the North Pole Police Department and the Fairbanks Police Department. All you have to do is to package up your unused drugs and drop them by any location. They will take the necessary precautions to dispose of them for you. I also checked with the North Pole Prescription Lab, which will accept unused prescription drugs all the time. No special drop-off day is needed.
Some drugs can be thrown in the household trash, but certain precautions should be taken. First, check the instructions on the label or the patient instructions that accompany the drug when you receive the medicine. Don’t flush any medication down the sink or toilet unless the instructions specifically tell you to do it. The FDA website at www.fda.gov has a list of prescription drugs that can be safely disposed of by flushing.
The safest way to get rid of unused medicines is to transfer them to one of the authorized disposal sites. If none of these sites is available to you, the FDA recommends following these steps to dispose of the medicines. Take them out of the original packaging to protect your privacy and identity. Scratch off or black out the labels on the bottles and discard. Mix the drugs with an undesirable substance such as used coffee grounds, kitty litter or dirt. Place in a sealable plastic bag and discard with your regular trash.
Most importantly, don’t share your prescription drugs with your family or friends. Doctors prescribe medicines based on your illness and your medical history. What helps you get well may be dangerous to another person.
This column has centered on prescription drugs, but the same procedures can be used to dispose of any old over-the-counter drugs that are lurking in your medicine cabinet.
Now is a good time to go through your stores and discard all those items with expired dates or that have outlasted the injury or illness they were prescribed to treat.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (907)474-7201.