It might not seem like a big deal when you have old medication lying around your home. But when you look at some of those active ingredients, including ones that are controlled substances, the potential for problems is clear. It can be dangerous when people struggling with addiction get access to medicines with opioids and other highly addictive ingredients. And young kids might mistake brightly colored pills for candy.
But getting rid of old medicines isn’t as simple as throwing them in the trash. Here’s how to dispose of those leftover pain medicines from surgery or expired prescriptions you don’t take anymore safely.
If your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist has given you specific instructions on how to dispose of a medication, follow their advice. The same goes for the label on your prescription. If the label has recommendations for disposal, it’s best to follow those. If not, see which of the following options will be best in your case.
By far, the best option for disposing of old medication is by taking it to a designated drug take-back site. Gallatin County has a program for taking back old or unused medications, with plenty of convenient locations. In Bozeman, you can drop medicine at the Law and Justice Center, the Bozeman Police Department, the MSU Law and Justice Center, or Highland Park Pharmacy at Bozeman Health. There’s a drop-off box at the police stations in Belgrade, Manhattan, and West Yellowstone. Livingston has a box at the Park County Sheriff’s office, and there’s one in Three Forks city hall. You can make drop-offs with no questions asked and at no cost. It’s just a simple, self-serve drop box, with no need to explain what you’re doing.
It is generally not a good idea to flush medications down the toilet. Dumping a ton of medicines into a sewer or septic tank can be bad for the environment. That’s why a take-back program is the best option. But it’s important to weigh those environmental impacts against the safety of your friends and family. Some drugs can potentially cause much more harm or death to people who misuse them. That makes it not worth the risk of having them lying around. Because of this, the FDA has a flush list of some of the most potentially harmful drugs. If you see one of yours on the list and can’t get it to a drop site immediately, experts recommend flushing it down the toilet.
As a last resort for medications not on the FDA flush list, you can dispose of them in the trash if you follow some specific instructions. The first step is to mix meds with something gross and unappealing, like coffee grounds, cat litter, or dirt. Then put that all in a sealed plastic container, like a zip-top bag, and place it in your household trash. Finally, take the medication containers, scratch out any personal information, and throw them away.
If you have questions about the best disposal methods for your old medications or how to access local drop-off locations, contact your CHP clinic in Bozeman, Belgrade, Livingston, or West Yellowstone. Healthcare professionals can help you with your specific needs and help keep you and your loved ones safe.