A safer way to dispose of medication | Aging Matters | May

My last column was about overmedication and polypharmacy, use of more medications than clinically indicated.

It occurred to me in the weeks since writing that column that if medications are in fact eliminated from a patient’s regimen before they’re used up, it might be important for readers to know what to do with the unused meds. I remember we once had a few bottles of unused antibiotics around and had a real need for this information.

I used to flush unused meds — there weren’t a lot of them — and once upon a time it was an accepted practice. It’s no longer accepted, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the increase in prescription medications and people taking them.  Flushing or tossing unused meds can result in chemicals in waste and wastewater seeping into our soil and water. Equally important is the need to keep meds out of the hands of children of all ages who could inadvertently or inappropriately find them. A Kitsap County Public Works newsletter cites alarming statistics about child poisonings caused by someone else’s medications. About 32 percent stem from prescription meds, and 28 percent from over the counter drugs, while 60 percent of teens report that pain meds are easy to get from parents’ medicine cabinets.

Current guidelines for “uncontrolled” medications — over the counter as well as prescription and veterinary meds — are to turn the meds in at one of the designated take-back facilities around the state. In North Kitsap unwanted medications are accepted by Group Health Cooperative Poulsbo Medical Center Pharmacy, 19379 7th Ave. NE.  The Bainbridge Island Police Department, 625 Winslow Way East, is another location for prescription drug take-back, though not for over-the-counter drugs.

These facilities ensure disposal of meds in a high-temperature incinerator. More information is available at www.takebackyourmeds.org.

We tested the Poulsbo location for disposing of those two bottles of unused antibiotics.  There’s an easy-to-use drop box there.

For controlled substances, including narcotics such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, antidepressants such as Valium, and drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall, the Bainbridge police station appears to be the only take-back facility locally. The list of controlled substances is also available at www.takebackyourmeds.org.

If you can’t take these meds to a collection facility, there is a last resort:  Grind them up and mix them with something undesirable like cat litter or coffee grounds and put them into a container with a lid. Be sure to conceal personal information and put the sealed container in the trash.