Safe Disposal of Pharmaceuticals
Managing unused medications is a safety as well as an environmental concern. Traditionally, we were told to flush unwanted medications down the drain or toilet rather than keeping them around so they would not be misused by the patient for the wrong symptoms or by someone else who was not prescribed the medication and who might use the drugs recreationally.
Although effective in removing the medication from potentially being misused, flushing creates a new and growing problem in the environment. Antibiotics and other medications in a septic system can destroy beneficial bacteria necessary for the system to operate. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove or process many compounds found in medications that end up being discharged into our surface and ground water. A study by the United States Geological Survey done in 1999 showed that in 80% of the streams sampled contained detectable levels of compounds found in common medications.
National attention is growing to develop more appropriate methods of safely disposing of unwanted medications. Here are a few documents about safely disposing of prescription drugs: