What do you do with unused, expired, or leftover medications? Do you throw them in the trash or flush them down the drain? If you do either of those two things, you should stop because medications can be harmful to the environment. If you throw medications in the trash they can end up in the landfill and if you flush medications down the drain they can end up in a water treatment plant or go straight to the nearby water system (river). If medications end up in the river they can lead to surface water contamination and toxicity to fish and other wildlife. In Wisconsin, it is estimated that around 120 million pounds of pharmaceuticals are sold each year, and about one third go unused. This leads to an accumulation of drugs in the household which not only poses a risk for the environment, but also poses a risk for humans. This includes ingestion, overdose and drug abuse. What can you do to prevent this?
At Gundersen Health System we help to inform the community of when and where medication drop offs are taking place. A medication drop off is a place where people can bring their expired, unused or leftover prescription drugs, and they will be properly disposed of. Medication drop offs are one of the best ways for people to properly dispose of drugs in their household. Medication drop offs can take place at pharmacies, local sponsoring businesses, hospitals, or hazardous waste sites. Other ways to reduce pharmaceutical waste include asking your doctor to only give you as much medication as you will need to avoid leftovers, and using medications before they expire.
Before throwing your unused medication away, think about the environment and the people close to you and remember that the smartest choice is to take the medication to a location where it will be properly disposed of.