Is it OK to flush unused drugs?

If you have unused portions of a prescription medication that you no longer need, you should not just store them in your medicine cabinet and forget about them. You have a responsibility to dispose of controlled substances to prevent their misuse.

It is not a simple matter of simply throwing the drugs in the trash, though. The label or packaging usually provides instructions on how to dispose of the medication properly. You may have concerns about instructions to flush certain medications, wondering how it will affect the environment.

Which medications should you flush?

You should not flush all medications down the toilet. There are many that you can dispose of in your household trash after some brief preparation. However, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that you flush medications that can do the most harm if used incorrectly. Never flush a drug unless you receive instructions to do so from the packaging, a doctor or a pharmacist.

Does flushing drugs harm the environment?

There are concerns that flushing unused drugs could contaminate the water supply. Several government agencies have looked into these concerns and found the risk negligible. Flushing medication is responsible for fewer drug residues in water systems than those that pass through your body unmetabolized.

Are there alternatives to flushing drugs?

If you still have concerns about disposing of certain drugs by flushing them, you look into the availability of drug take-back programs in your community.

Your authorization to possess certain medications ends when the prescription is no longer valid. You can avoid possible drug possession charges by taking care to dispose of the unused portions in the recommended fashion.

Costner & Greene Attorneys at Law

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