Expired and unused medicines are often left lying in medicine cabinets and bedside drawers. Most people, who dispose of the unused and expired medications during their annual diwali ki safai or occasional cleaning, simply put them in the trash. This leads to their potential misuse and release of harmful chemicals in soil and water.
Medications that are expired have actually passed their half-life, which leads to them being ineffective and dangerous. This happens due to a change in their chemical composition. Throwing away unused medicines ignorantly can cause medicines to end up in our water system and landfills, thereby polluting water and soil.
A recent study conducted globally established the concentration of some medicines in the landfills. It was found that the pain reliever acetaminophen, for example, was present in samples from one landfill at concentrations of 117,000 ng/L, the highest level of any drug measured in the study. Commonly used antibiotic- ciprofloxacin was present at concentrations of 269 ng/L. Other drugs found included low concentrations of estrone (from hormone replacement therapy), albuterol (an asthma drug), and the antibiotic penicillin. All these chemicals are potentially harmful when they enter human body through food or water.
Getting rid of old unused medications is important to ensure children don't accidentally get their hands on them. Old medicines are usually lie mixed up with new ones in the medicine boxes. Our aged moms and dads may take the old ones confusing them for fresh medicines. To prevent this, it’s recommended to keep minimum and only important medicines at your home. But how to actually do it?
It may seem smart to flush unwanted medicines down the toilet or throw them in the trash. But this isn’t a good idea. Putting unused medications down the drain or flushing them down the toilet may expose drinking water to the chemicals.
What’s the right thing to do?
Crush the pills and capsules.
Add water to dissolve it.
Add sand, clay or any material that mixes with the medication.
Pour it into a plastic bag and seal it properly.
Put this bag in the trash.
Disposing of in a plastic is though the recommended way but not the best way to get rid of your meds. If our medicines are unused but not expired, consider giving it back at your nearest medical store. This way such medicines can be reused or recycled. Don’t give the unused medications to your friends or relatives. Your prescription is based on your symptoms; someone else with the same disease might adversely react to your prescription medicines. Still better, support our Medicine Take Back Initiative where we collect unused and expired medicines from your doorstep. All the hassle of crushing, mixing and disposing is on us. To give your valuable suggestions on our idea of Medicine Take Back Program, write on the comment box below.
Medicines play an important role in treating many conditions and diseases and when they are no longer needed it is important to dispose of them properly to help reduce harm from accidental exposure or intentional misuse. Healthy environment for healthier life!