Flushing Myths about Medication Disposal

Variety of PillsOver the years, you may have heard the recommended way to dispose of unused medications is to flush them down the toilet, pour them down the drain, or throw them in the trash.

Not anymore.

The EPA and the FDA have renounced this recommendation for medication disposal. However, many Americans are still unaware of this change.

Below are popular myths surrounding prescription drug disposal.

The Myths

Myth: It’s fine to flush prescription drugs down the toilet or pour them down the drain.

Fact: Many pharmaceuticals are getting past our waste water treatment plants and getting into our drinking water.

Scientists with the United States Geological Society conducted a study of more than 130 rivers, streams and other waterways in the U.S. In 80 percent of water they tested, they found the following prescription drugs:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-depressants
  • Seizure medication
  • Cancer treatments
  • Pain killers
  • Tranquilizers
  • Birth control pills

Sewage systems are not equipped for prescription drug removal. Effective removal of prescription drug pollutants varies based on the type of chemical in the drug. This makes controlling and removing the pollutants difficult once they are flushed.

Myth: Medicines thrown in the garbage cannot get into the environment.

Pill Bottle with PillsFact: Unwanted drugs are still chemically active when they are thrown in the trash. Medicines in a landfill can be released into the environment through the landfill liquid.

Returning your unwanted medicine to a take-back program is the safest way to dispose of your drugs. Take-back programs, such as the OSF St. Joseph Medical Center annual Prescription Drug Disposal Program (P2D2), provide the safest and most environmentally responsible method of disposal.

Due to the rise in the usage of prescription drugs, it is important now, more than ever, to take responsibility for properly disposing unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs.

For More Information

OSF St. Joseph offers a P2D2 event once a year. This year’s event is taking place on Saturday, June 22, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Learn more about proper disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals on our Drug Disposal page

Last Updated: July 8, 2019

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About Author: Jamie Peel

Working as a Marketing Specialist at OSF St. Joseph, two days are never the same for Jamie Peel. However, one constant in Jamie's position is writing. She acts as the hospital's writer, working closely with clinical and non-clinical staff to offer up-to-date and reliable information regarding health trends, hospital updates, and more.

Jamie received her BS in Mass Media from Illinois State University and has a background in broadcast journalism which helps her tell stories for OSF St. Joseph every day.

This author is no longer writing for this blog.

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