New guidelines to trash old Rx drugs

Concerns about illicit drug use and the impact on the environment has prompted the federal government to issues new guidelines for disposing of prescription drugs.


The recommended method for getting rid of old medications used to be flushing them down the toilet, but that’s become taboo, according to Mark Webber, at for the office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. “That has created some environmental concerns, and what does that do to the watershed and the water supplies and the systems,” Webber says. He says anti-depressants and antibiotics are showing up in our waterways.


Webber says, “One of the ways we can recommend to properly dispose of prescription drugs is mixing them with undesirable substances, such as kitty litter, coffee grounds, things that people just find undesirable, so that individuals wouldn’t be tempted to pick through the trash to find prescription medications.” Webber says the mix of pills and kitty litter should be sealed in a plastic bag and tossed out. He acknowledges the drugs may still be able to leach into the groundwater, but it’ll take a lot longer.


There are no state guidelines or regulations for disposing of prescription drugs but possible solutions are being considered. Kevin Borcher, president of the Nebraska Board of Pharmacy, says a “take-back” program is being developed. Borcher says, “One of the issues for controlled substance take-back is to have a law enforcement official working directly with the pharmacist at the take back program who can then take possession of those controlled substances for proper disposal.” He says several states already have prescription take-back programs.


He says prescriptions collected by pharmacists with the help of law enforcement officials are usually sent to hazardous waste facilities.