Thursday, November 11, 2010

trade secrets: to flush or not to flush

What do you do with your old, expired medications? Flush them down the toilet, right? Out of sight, out of mind.
Every day we get a phone call at the pharmacy that asks -- Can I flush old meds down the toilet?

To  reduce the amount of drugs that end up in your drinking water and the environment, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the American Pharmacists Association, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America have banded together to develop

SMARxT DISPOSAL: A Prescription for a Healthy Planet.

The following steps can make a huge difference in protecting our environment. If you are unsure how to dispose of a specific medication, contact your local pharmacist and ask for directions.


1. For most medications: DO NOT FLUSH unused medications or POUR them down a sink or drain.

2. Be Proactive and Dispose of Unused Medication in Household Trash. When discarding unused medications, ensure you protect children and pets from potentially negative effects:

a. Pour medication into a sealable plastic bag. If medication is a solid (pill, liquid capsule, etc), crush it or add water to dissolve it.

b. Pour kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds (or any material that mixes with the medication and makes it less appealing for pets and children to eat) into the plastic bag.

c. Seal the plastic bag and put it in the trash.

d. Remove and destroy ALL identifying personal information {prescription label} from all medication containers before recycling them or throwing them in the trash.

3. Check for Approved State and Local Collection Programs. {hospitals often do medication disposals/take backs with the state police}

4. Another option is to check for approved state and local collection alternatives such as community-based household hazardous wastes collection programs. In certain states, you may be able to take your unused medications to your community pharmacy or other location for disposal.

5. When in the pharmacy or state police. I guarantee you they {mainly the police}will collect a control rather than let it make its way into the wrong hands.


So you followed everything above, but you notice the medication says to FLUSH any leftover old medication or after usage.What do you do?

When a drug contains instructions to flush it down the toilet,  it is because  the FDA, working with the manufacturer, has determined this method to be the most appropriate route of disposal that presents the least risk to safety.

About a dozen drugs, such as powerful narcotic pain relievers and other controlled substances, carry instructions for flushing to reduce the danger of unintentional use or overdose and illegal abuse.

For example, the fentanyl patch, an adhesive patch that delivers a potent pain medicine through the skin, comes with instructions to flush used or leftover patches. Too much fentanyl can cause severe breathing problems and lead to death in babies, children, pets, and even adults, especially those who have not been prescribed the drug. Even after a patch is used, a lot of the drug remains in the patch, so you wouldn’t want to throw something in the trash that contains a powerful and potentially dangerous narcotic that could harm others.

***Please note the reason a lot of pharmacies do NOT want to take meds back for disposal is because the cost of destroying the meds is $$$. They get no money for this. So the cost-benefit analysis does not weigh in their favor to do it.

Feel free to share away with friends and family or not. Either way, it will be our little secret.



  1. very informative! thanks e!
    It confuses me about flushing the patches. I mean I understand about the "wrong hands" part. But what about the water issue?
    thanks for taking the time to inform us of your trade secrets!
    ps feel free to link this up to catch-as-catch-can (no rules party)

  2. Great question Gail!

    Basically VERY strong pain meds that are on patches {not like the type for motion sickness} are the ones that get flushed because abusers will actually go thru trash for these meds since there is still a lot of drug on the patch..even if you mix it with kitty litter.

    Since they are just pain meds...the water in the toilet and sewers will dilute the med enough to not cause them to be effective. Also becuase these are just pain med patched..this will not effect the water supply to the same extent as hormone medication {like synthroid and such}.

    To be is the pain meds we have to be careful about. That is what people will "dig" for -- and unfortunately....they will.

    Hope this clears up some stuff.


  3. Great post, m' dear! You should start linking this series up wherever you can find a relevant linky party. Alot of people would benefit from your Friday series.
    Have a wonderful weekend:)


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