Aging Parents: Disposing of Unused Medications

If even one of your parents takes medications for a chronic condition, you know that it is not unusual for a switch or a dose adjustment. Changing medical conditions, drug interactions, and  side effects in older adults require physicians to make changes, and each of our parents has experienced the need for a medication adjustment at one time or another. As a result of these changes a range of unused, expired or unexpired medications accumulates on parent’s shelf, and only rarely does a physician re-prescribe something.

What should we do with all of these old medications?

The best solution seems to be to find a pharmacy that can dispose of them for you. The National Community Pharmacists Association and the Dispose My Meds website offer a program at selected pharmacies (locator by state and zip code), though the number of participating vendors is small. But what if there is no pharmacy with a disposal program near where you live?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  consumer health information site, most unused medications should not be flushed down the toilet, a habit that many of us have adopted at one time or another. Unused or expired medications should be removed from their containers, mixed with coffee grounds or kitty litter, sealed in a Ziploc bag, and put in the trash. Another site, SMARxT Disposal for a Healthy Planet recommends crushing or diluting the pills with a bit of water and then adding the kitty litter, coffee grounds or sawdust. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy also posts a series of medication disposal steps on its site.

FDA recommends that a small number of medications, mostly narcotic and powerful pain relievers, be flushed down the toilet if they are no longer used, to prevent them from falling into the hands of drug addicts. These meds are listed at the Food and Drug Administration site (scroll down to the bottom) as well as at the  SMARxT Disposal site FAQ.
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One thought on “Aging Parents: Disposing of Unused Medications

  1. Pingback: I Knew I Was Right to Dispose of Those Powerful Pain Killers | As Our Parents Age

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