This weekly Live Well Polk column is provided by Floyd Polk Medical Center, a sponsor of Polk.Today. This week’s column is from Dr. Neeve Owen, the Floyd Polk Medical Center Pharmacist.

So maybe a year or so ago you sprained an ankle and got a painkiller you didn’t really need. Perhaps that prescription antibiotic you should have finished but never did is also still lingering in the back of your medicine cabinet.

A Consumer Reports survey of more than 1,000 adults found that more than one-quarter of Americans hang on to unused drugs “until they’re used up.” This ups the odds for misuse, too.

You certainly don’t want to let old drugs stay around, but it’s not always easy to know exactly how to dispose of them. There’s a right way and a wrong way to get rid of old medications possibly lurking around the house.

In 2020, a nationwide Take Back Day collected more than 492 tons of prescription drugs that were turned in at about 5,200 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,500 state and local law enforcement partners.

Proper disposal of unwanted medicines is important. Most abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. They can lead to overdoses and accidental poisonings.

While it may be tempting to just chuck those old drugs in the garbage, that is not recommended for a wide variety of medications. And even if it is appropriate for certain drugs, there is a right way to do it.

Throwing drugs in the trash is allowed if the label or instructions provided when you bought the item say otherwise.

If you throw it in the trash:

⦁ Remove the drugs from the original container
⦁ Mark out all identifying information on the container or pill bottle to keep your identity safe.
⦁ Mix the contents with coffee ground, dirt, kitty litter or other undesirable substance and place in sealable bag, empty can or container
⦁ Discard in household trash

Flushing drugs down the toilet or down the sink is also not appropriate. That is only allowed if the patient information leaflet or drug label says it is OK.

What else you should know:

⦁ Do not share unused/leftover medications
⦁ If prescribed, make sure you take all you antibiotics. Dangerous superbugs can be created by not taking all your antibiotics.
⦁ Do not puncture or throw an inhaler into a fire
⦁ Something you take may harm someone else
⦁ When in doubt, ask pharmacist

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