STOP! DON’T FLUSH
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 41
For these drugs, use a take-back program run
by a local law enforcement agency.
Because medicine may leach into land-fill soil, dispose of it in the trash only as a
For safe trash disposal, the EPA recommends crushing and mixing unused drugs
with wet cat litter or used coffee grounds,
and placing the mixture in a sealed container. Some drugs may be harmful if
inhaled, so crush any drugs in a sealed plastic bag, to prevent particles from spreading
into the air, says Mitchel Rothholz, chief
strategy officer for the American Pharmacists Association.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
takes place every April. Find a local take-back
program online at www.deadiversion.usdoj.
gov (search “drug disposal/takeback”).
Most of the drugs flushed down the toi-
let, however, come from human excrement:
the metabolized residue of medicines we
take. The fewer medicines we take, the less
passes from our body into our water supply
and the environment. With this in mind,
Other steps can reduce your pharma-
ceutical footprint. For example, to reduce
excess medicine in your home, don’t buy
drugs in bulk when starting a new prescrip-
tion. While some insurers require a 90-day
supply for chronic medications, ask your
doctor or pharmacist about filling a 30-day
supply if you are starting a new medication,
to ensure that the medication is tolerated.
Also, avoid unused medication by following directions. “If you are taking an antibiotic, you should complete the whole
series, even though you may be feeling
better after a couple of days,” says
Rothholz, a licensed pharmacist.
When it comes to antibiotics,
confirm with your doctor to make
sure you need them: Antibiotics
don’t treat viral infections such as
the flu or bronchitis, yet recent stud-
ies found they are over-prescribed by
up to 60 percent for ailments they
don’t treat. The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention warns
that antibiotic misuse fuels anti-
biotic-resistant bacteria, which
led to 23,000 deaths and more
than 2 million illnesses in 2013.
“The consumer can have a personal
role in minimizing the amount of drugs we
send into the [water] system,” says Wu.
“Don’t pressure your doctor to give you a
drug just because you think you need one
to feel better.” C
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