This winter WILL end, sooner or later, and then it will be spring-cleaning time! One thing I get asked, every so often, is “what should I do with all those bottles full of medications I don’t use anymore?”
Obviously, we don’t want unused medications hanging around the house. Accidentally or intentionally taking a medication that is no longer prescribed can be dangerous, even fatal, especially if it is combined with other medications that are currently prescribed. Pain medications present a special risk – every day, 2500 teenagers will use a prescription drug to get high for the first time, possibly starting a life-long struggle with substance abuse. Adolescents are at the age when they are most sensitive to developing problems with substance abuse.
So, just flush them down the toilet or throw them in the trash, right? Well, that may protect your family and yourself in the short run. But, there are an estimated 200 million pounds of unused medications that need to be disposed of every year! And those medications can, and do, end up in our water, even after wastewater treatment, and are present in detectable levels. This is because water treatment plants are not designed to remove medications. Some medications are removed to a great degree, but others would require specialized treatment. So flushing them down the toilet is not a good solution, in the long run.
What’s the answer?!?! Most local police stations have secure drop boxes in their lobby area, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can bring medications in, dump them in the drop box, and leave. It’s anonymous, free, safe. The medications are collected by the DEA and incinerated, which is the most environmentally friendly way of disposal. There are some restrictions – most do not take inhalers or liquid medications. The Beverly police station does not take needles; the Danvers station has a separate box for needles. Call your local police station (use the business line, not the emergency one) and ask about any restrictions. You can take the pills out of the bottles, or take the labels off the bottles, if you don’t want your name on them.
You can also work to reduce how much unused medication you have at home. Finish prescriptions of antibiotics, when they are prescribed, and don’t keep them around “for the next time.” If you are starting a new medication for a chronic problem, try to get a two-week or one-month supply, instead of a 90-day supply, until you know how you are going to respond to it. Keep a limited supply of “as-needed” medications on hand.
And…Happy Spring Cleaning!
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At North Shore Pain Management we provide advanced, evidence based, multidisciplinary and cost effective pain management. Our goal is to improve your ability to return to the activities you have been missing as well as provide a meaningful reduction in pain.