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Sadie Says… Cleaning out the medicine cabinet

Frequently asked questions about older adult issues

Q. I looked through my medications and see that I have quite a few that have expired or that I don’t use anymore. I’ve heard that I shouldn’t flush them down the toilet or put them in the trash. I want to get rid of them, but how can I do it?

A. First of all, congratulations on deciding to clean out that medicine cabinet!

Having unnecessary medications around means that they may get into the hands of people they’re not meant for.

If you were told that medications were the leading cause of child poisoning you would probably think of young children mistaking medication for candy.

But in one study of teens’ illegal use of prescription pills, 34 percent of reported getting the medication from a family member. Pills may then be taken to a “pharm” party and thrown into a communal bowl, where participants grab handfuls to consume.

So what to do?

The safest option is to take your medications to a drug take-back site found in many police stations and also at the Lycoming County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, several pharmacies are now able to take unused medications. Call your local police department or pharmacy to find out for sure.

If you are unable to get your medicine to a safe take-back site, you can mix the medication in a small bag with some coffee grounds or cat litter before putting it in the trash. This makes the medication unusable for anyone who may root through trash in search of pills.

And unless otherwise advised by your doctor or pharmacist, never flush medicines down the toilet; they may damage our environment or get back into the water supply.

It is important to note that needles and intravenous solutions cannot be accepted at medicine take-back sites. Those should be taken to your primary care provider’s office for proper disposal.

We also suggest keeping any current medications in a safe and secure location, locked if possible.

We hope this is helpful!

— Sadie Says is provided by the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition.

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