PharmacyChecker.com’s focus is on helping consumers find safe and affordable meds online while avoiding rogue pharmacy websites. But what do people do with unused medication? Leaving unused prescription drugs in medicine cabinets at home can leave them susceptible to abuse or accidental ingestion. Unused medication includes those products that you no longer need or that are expired. Disposal methods include bringing medication to “take-back” programs in your community, safely throwing in the trash, and even flushing meds down the toilet – but there are important guidelines to ensure safety.
Medication disposal is a particularly critical issue when it comes to controlled drugs, ones susceptible to abuse, because prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. About seven million Americans abuse prescription drugs, often powerful narcotics, such as oxycodone and Adderall, almost twice the number found to abuse illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. About 70% of first time abusers get the drugs from friends or relatives, including from their medicine cabinets!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends following the disposal instructions on the label of the drug. Don’t flush your meds down the toilet except when instructed to do so. Your community will likely have drug “take-back” programs. Call your local government offices to find them. In the absence of instructions or take back programs, the FDA recommends throwing most medications away in the household trash. Mix loose medication in a sealable bag or container with an undesirable substance such as coffee grounds or litter. It’s also recommended that you remove or scratch out any information on the prescription label so that it’s unreadable.
The FDA recommends flushing narcotic pain relievers such as fentanyl patches, morphine, Demerol, Percocet, and OxyContin, among many others, as soon as they are no longer needed because of their high risk of abuse. There are environmental concerns related to flushing medication, such water contamination. However, according to the Environmental Pro¬tection Agency, scientists to date have found no evidence of adverse human health effects from pharmaceutical residues in the environment. FDA provides a complete list of medications for flushing here.
Before throwing disposing of any medication, the FDA also recommends removing the labels on pill bottles to remove any information others might use
Drug and regulatory authorities have recently stepped up options for prescription painkiller disposal to combat the addiction epidemic. In fact, a relatively new FDA rule now allows pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospitals to collect controlled substances from consumers. The DEA has launched a drug collection site database to help you find one. The public may find authorized collectors in their communities by calling the DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539
What about destroying your medication?
There are products on the market for consumers and healthcare providers for disposing of medications. We DO NOT ENDORSE them but here are a few that may meet your needs help you follow the advice noted above:
The DEA seeks to shutdown a major Walgreen’s distribution center in Jupiter, Florida. As part of its investigation of Walgreens, the DEA found that one of its pharmacies was supplied 3271 bottles of oxycodone, a highly abused narcotic, during a 40-day period in a town with less than 3000 people. It appears that Walgreens knew about supply abuses but did not heed the warnings until confronted by DEA. One email obtained during the investigation shows an employee confused about how the receiving pharmacy could “even house this many bottles.”
The prescription drug abuse crisis in the United States is a domestic not international or “foreign pharmacy” distribution problem. In fact, reputable international online pharmacies, based in Canada or elsewhere, do not sell controlled substances to Americans. When it comes to the Internet, Americans should use extreme caution if ordering controlled substances online by only ordering from licensed U.S. pharmacies with the proper DEA registration and in compliance with the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act.
Taking note that generic Oxycontin (oxycodone) is soon to be legally available for sale in Canada (See the Vancouver Sun); we remind Americans that reputable Canadian-based online pharmacies do not sell Oxycontin or other controlled prescription drugs to Americans. Oxycontin is a highly addictive narcotic, designated as a schedule II controlled pain medication in the U.S. When taken appropriately under a doctor’s supervision, Oxycontin can be very effective in the treatment of moderate to severe pain. Unfortunately, Oxycontin and other pain medications can easily be abused. Painkillers are responsible for 15,000 deaths annually, more than are attributed to heroin use and all other illegal drugs combined, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy alerted U.S. border agents to be on the lookout for imports of generic Oxycontin. Under the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act only appropriately licensed U.S. online pharmacies can dispense schedule II controlled drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s drug importation policy prioritizes the agency’s enforcement actions against illegal wholesale importers, but has generally permitted individual Americans to import small orders of non-controlled prescription drugs. Unlike regular prescription medication, the sale of controlled drugs, such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, Xanax, and Ambien, are regulated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency not the FDA and subject to much stricter enforcement. PharmacyChecker.com evaluates and monitors non-U.S. online pharmacies in our program to make sure they do not sell controlled medications to Americans. See our Controlled Substances Policy.