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4 ways to properly dispose of medications

By Intermountain Live Well  |  Posted Aug 9th, 2017 @ 8:00am


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Take a look in your medicine cabinet. Are there any unused or expired medications? If so, it is vitally important that you get rid of them—in a safe manner.

You might think these medications are safe. You might think that no one is going to find and use them. But there are no safe ways to keep expired or unused prescriptions. Protect your family by getting rid of them. Here are several ways to dispose of your old meds.

The Wrong Way to Dispose of Medications

Even when you are getting rid of unused or expired medications, you still need to exercise caution. Simply throwing them in the trash is dangerous, because people, especially children, and pets and still find and consume them.

It’s also dangerous to flush your medications down the toilet. Traces of the substances can end up in the water system, which can be harmful to both the public and wildlife.

Use a Drop Box

All Intermountain Healthcare Community Pharmacies have drop boxes for medication. Just bring your medications to the pharmacy and dispose of them in the sealed, metal containers. You don’t have to talk to anyone in the pharmacy or give any information. Simply show up, deposit, and head on your way. Click here for a list of drop box locations near you.

Use Only As Directed gives additional drop box locations in other community areas such as city halls, health departments, and police stations on their website.

Since Intermountain has placed the drop boxes in their pharmacies, they’ve collected more than 15,000 pounds of discarded medication.

Dispose of Medications Safely at Home

If you are not able to take your medications to a drop box, you can still safely dispose of them in a way that doesn’t endanger others or pollute our water. Put the contents of the pill bottles into a sealable, plastic bag and crush them. Then add something like dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds to the pills—anything that makes them unappealing or difficult to consume. Seal the bag and throw it away, along with your empty prescription bottles.

Speak Up and Opt Out

There are thousands of opioid prescriptions filled every day in Utah. But have you ever asked yourself if you actually need opioids? New evidence has shown that there may be other, more effective ways to treat pain than opioids, such as a combination of naproxen and acetaminophen. The CDC now recommends that opioids be reserved for cancer, chronic pain lasting longer than three months, and end-of-life care. Talk to your doctor about the risks of opioids and alternative pain management techniques—and then determine whether you want that prescription.

For more information, visit Intermountain Healthcare Pharmacy Services.

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