Disposing of Old Medications
Have you ever noticed how items in the bathroom cupboard multiply? I know that those little bottles and tubes are romancing each other in the dark. My proof is the way they go through regular population explosions all over the bathroom counter.
I know you know what I’m talking about. Medications proliferate like wisteria. Stop pruning for a minute and the next thing you know they engulf your house, your car and any neighbors who mistakenly venture too close. Unlike wisteria, medications can pose a serious hazard in our homes.
Brightly colored little pills look dangerously similar to candy. Telling your children or grandchildren not to eat them isn’t terribly effective. I don’t know about you, but I remember eating candy when I knew I wasn’t supposed to. As a matter of fact, in high school I remember finding a bag of chocolate chips hidden on a top shelf, behind a box of soda crackers.
I opened it. I had a few; my brother had a few. Two weeks later, my mother wanted to make chocolate chip cookies and found an empty bag. It’s kid nature.
Unfortunately, some kids today (just like kids of yesteryear) are interested in mind-altering substances. Having extra medicines piling up makes it easier to remove a few here and there without being noticed.
And expiration dates… I know those dates might be a bit more conservative than necessary, but some chemicals really do break down over time or when stored in humid conditions, as bathrooms often are. But what do you do with old medications that you don’t need anymore?
What NOT To Do
On the Internet, I have found disposal suggestions that are NOT approved (or even legal) in the state of Washington.
They recommend flushing unwanted medicines down the toilet or mixing them with unpalatable substances, like used cat litter, in a plastic bag for disposal. The idea here is to keep unauthorized humans from eating the pills. But, unlike diamonds, plastic bags are not forever. Sooner or later those medicines can become available to local wildlife and fish. The contents can leach into the ground and contaminate the water supply for not only them, but humans as well.
This begs the question: How do salmon react to Prozac? What happens to deer on hormone replacement therapy? Raccoons on Viagra? Skunks on Ritilan? The mind boggles.
In a growing number of states, there are designated medicine return locations in pharmacies and government buildings. You can look up disposal sites for King and Snohomish Counties in Washington state.
If you don’t live in one of these counties, you can do an Internet search on “medication take back” and input the name of your county and state to find a location. Don’t despair if your area doesn’t offer drop off locations yet. The Drug Enforcement Agency hosts occasional Drug Take Back events and some drug manufacturers offer mailing containers for customers to use to return unwanted medications. Check their website to see if any events are planned for the near future in your area.
Whatever you do, please dispose of unwanted medications properly and join me in keeping our wildlife sober and drug-free.