Off the Meds Yet?

Earlier this week, GMC celebrated the 23rd annual United Nations (UN) World Water Day. This year, the UN focused on the importance of the process of obtaining clean water, and the people who work to make sure water is safely distributed.

Purifying water is an extensive yet important process, and many people don’t realize how easily water is contaminated. For instance, people tend to not finish prescribed medication once they’re feeling healthier. What happens to that leftover medicine? It is common to dispose of prescription drugs by flushing them down a toilet. In some cases, it was even encouraged by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This was a way to ensure that unused drugs wouldn’t be abused by anyone else, or to avoid a potential hazard to family members or pets.

Flushing away some prescriptions could be more damaging to our water source than we think. Although the water used in our toilets is processed at sewage treatment plants, some prescription medications may not be completely removed from the water. This poses a hazard to human health, fish and wildlife, and may also potentially contaminate soil and groundwater in the future. In 1999 and 2000, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study and found traces of pharmaceuticals in 80 percent of sampled rivers and streams. Due to this staggering information and an increase in the use of prescription medicine, the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend a more precautious disposal of certain medications.

The safest way to dispose of prescription medications is by turning them into a facility that collects pharmaceuticals or a collector registered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). If those options are not possible, the FDA recommends that the prescription be placed in a sealed plastic bag filled with dirt or kitty litter and then placed into the trash.

It is important to remember that although prescription medicine can disappear with the flushing method, it is still going somewhere. As we celebrate events such as World Water Day, it is imperative to remember that we all contribute to the quality of the water we depend on. National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is right around the corner, on April 30th. For more information on ways to safely dispose of medication, click here.

Think twice before flushing unused medication.

By Kimberly Dallmann, GMC Writer