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Trisha Torrey

Flushing Drugs Is Ba-a-ad Practice

By October 17, 2012

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While cleaning out Dad's apartment when he died, we unearthed boxes of drugs he had taken, then stopped taking, over the years. Boxes full of pill bottles, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, supplements, vitamins, and eye drops. Some were new and he hadn't lived long enough to use up the supply, others had expired, but most were just abandoned - likely because he had tried taking them and they didn't help him, or because the dose had been changed...

So what were we supposed to do with them all?

Dad lived in Florida, in a complex for seniors, which includes assisted living and skilled nursing centers. So I contacted the director of nursing to ask what their protocol is for disposing of drugs. Her reply was, "Oh, just flush them."

I couldn't believe my ears. Seriously? Just flush them? At first I thought she was being funny, knowing perfectly well that flushing drugs down the toilet is a major no-no. But no, she said that was exactly what they do with them - flush them. In fact, she told me, flushing them is the protocol used by all nursing homes and senior residences throughout Florida.

So we discussed the dangers and the damage that flushing drugs can do to the water supply and to the environment. She acknowledged that she knows that's all true, but that a policy is a policy. And so she remained steadfast. Flush them.

We didn't flush them. Not a CHANCE we would flush them.

Instead I remembered information I've written about before, including stories of genetically altered fish, found to have traces of human drugs in their systems. And community water supplies found to have traces of drugs in them - or....

Think about it this way: Your neighbor flushes her diarrhea medicine or her left over hormone tablets, which delivers them to the sewer system, which eventually, after waste treatment, makes its way into your drinking water. In fact, a series of studies have shown traces of human drugs in every metropolitan drinking water supply in the United States. Yum.

There are other far safer ways to dispose of drugs, and to protect people and the environment, too.

Learn more about the dangers to loved ones and the environment when drugs are not properly disposed of.

Learn some simple steps for getting rid of drugs in other ways.

I sure hope someone with some authority over nursing homes in the state of Florida reads this and works toward changing the protocol.

And if you live in Florida, consider drinking only bottled water - perhaps imported from Maine.

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Agree? Disagree?
Share your experience or join the conversation!


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Photo 123rf

October 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm
(1) gemdiamondintherough says:

Yes, in years past this was common practice!!!!!!!!! Until I learned better, I was one of the guilty parties that flushed “tons” of meds down the hopper at work!!!

Please use some common sense. CHANGE THE POLICY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, I also hope that someone down in Florida, where many “winter birds” reside, gets on the bandwagon and starts a different policy!!!!!
I do not know how environmentally friendly, burning them is, but that is what I did with the last ones I had. There was not a local place that was easily accessible, so I burned them with my paper. Granted I live in the country and have a camp fire spot, and living in the city this would not be the wisest thing to do.

October 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm
(2) LTCEducator says:

This is true. While this topic is state specific, many states require “flushing” of medications. Some flush the pills whole, some are required to dilute the pills into a “slurry” consistency prior to flushing, other states may require the pills be returned to the pharmacy for disposal. You can ask the pharmacy to dispose of them, however, they may flush them as well.

Even if you throw them in the trash, they will make their way into the landfill and then the soil. Unfortunately, the only other option I can think of is incinerating them, which, again, will depend on the state or county regulations for incineration use. Many counties have outlawed use of incinerators.

So there you have it. Unfortunately, no easy option.
The article on the link above “Simple Steps for Getting Rid of Drugs in Other Ways” is a good one.

October 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm
(3) Ileana says:

I gave my old drugs to the pharmacy. The tech took them and threw them in the garbage under his desk. Considering that he didn’t even say anything about it, I suspect this wasn’t the first time that happened and this might have been their “policy” as well.

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