Disposal of medication has rarely been a topic for discussion. Most manufacturers’ medication package inserts contain no specific instruction on how to properly dispose of unused or expired medications. Concerns about the potential harmful effects that flushing drugs down the toilet may have on the environment have made medication disposal an important issue to consider.
Of course, medication flushing is not the only contributor to the presence of pharmaceutical contaminants in the water. Sources such as residues from hospitals and pharmaceutical manufacturing, runoff from agribusiness, veterinary drug use, human activities (including medications excreted in urine and feces) have all been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as significant contributors to the levels of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment. Minimizing the flushing of medications as a means of disposal will lessen the burden.
Incineration is the most environmentally friendly method of disposal, but is generally not available to individuals except in areas with pharmacy Take-Back Programs.
Most drugs can be thrown in the household trash, but consumers should take certain precautions before tossing them out, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Follow any specific disposal instruction on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication.
Do not flush drugs down the toilet unless this information instructs you to do so.
Take the drugs out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash. Put the medication in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag. Place in trash.
Remove prescription labels or scratch out all identifying information on the prescription container. This will help protect the privacy of your personal health information.
Do not give medications to friends! Your friend may have a medical condition that might be worsened by the drug or have serious adverse effects related to the drug or be taking other medications that might interact adversely with your medication.
OR...Take your unused or expired medication to a pharmacy with a Take-Back Program such as the one offered at the Campus Health Pharmacy.
Campus Health Pharmacy will take back from students certain unused, expired or unwanted medications. These medications are sent to a vendor who incinerates the products. See below for the limitations for the program.
For UNC-CH students and employees only.
According to DEA regulations, we cannot accept controlled substances for disposal. These include narcotic pain relievers, stimulants for ADHD, and certain medications for anxiety and insomnia. Look for a DEA-sponsored Drug Take-Back program to dispose of controlled substances.
We accept only tablets and capsules. We cannot accept other dosage forms at this time including liquids, creams and injectables.
All information identifying the patient must be removed or marked out including patient name, PID, and Rx#.
Students should put the medications in a plastic or paper bag and give the bag to a Campus Health Pharmacy staff member.
Campus Health Pharmacy and Student Stores Pharmacy have been taking our own steps to “Go Green”.
Reduce: We minimize paper used when dispensing medication when possible, but we are limited by federal drug regulations that require certain paper information materials be given to patients.
Reuse: We reuse the reverse side of printed paper when feasible for internal purposes.
Recycle: We recycle plastic and glass drug bottles, other plastics and glass, paper drug packaging materials, other paper generated in the dispensing process, cardboard packaging, polystyrene packing peanuts, office paper, mixed paper, and batteries.
Take-Back Program: We have a medication Take-Back Program at Campus Health Pharmacy to educate students and to provide an environmentally responsible means for students to dispose of unwanted medications.
Campus Health Pharmacy and Student Stores Pharmacy thanks you for helping us go green. Small steps make a big difference!
Go to campushealth.unc.edu/comments. We appreciate your thoughts!