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LIVING WELL: What happens when drugs expire

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If you're like most people in Tennessee you have anywhere from one to 30 bottles of prescription medication at home. And just like most people you may save whatever medications you have left over after you discontinue the medication.

All medications expire at some point.

This is due to the fact that the chemicals involved in the medications begin to degrade over time. Some medications are more sensitive to expiration dates than others.

Is not a bad idea to look through your medicine cabinet right now and search for medications that are no longer appropriate because they are expired or for a condition that is not currently active.

What should you do with the medications that you no longer need or that have expired? Many people’s first inclination may be to dump the prescriptions into the toilet.

However, disposing of medications this way may lead to problems affecting water supplies.

As the chemicals are mixed into the water as it goes down the drain and ultimately end up in water supplies there is concern of how the medications might affect wildlife and ultimately people. Not all chemicals are filtered out during the water processing.

In 2008 the Associated Press featured a news story that revealed at least 41 million Americans were routinely being exposed to trace levels of a vast array of pharmaceutical agents including antibiotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers and hormones in their drinking water.

Although the concentrations of these drugs were very small, and not judged to be a health hazard, it was still alarming to discover that they were present in a quantity large enough to be measured.

It is believed that the majority of these trace amounts of drugs that are found in the water supplies arrived there is a result of normal human excretion.

Some scientists worry about long-term effects of greater amounts of medication accumulating in water supplies.

For this reason it is not recommended you nonchalantly dump your remaining prescription or over-the-counter medication into the toilet unless the label specifically recommends this method of disposal.

Certain narcotics and a few other medications can be very dangerous if accidentally ingested by child or another individual. For these drugs the label will indicate disposal by flushing into the toilet is recommended.

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that you consider participating in a medicine take-back program.

Tennessee does work with the federal government to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs safely. In Rutherford County, the Sheriff’s Office is the location specified by the state program to accept unwanted medication.  

You can take the medications to the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office located at 940 New Salem Highway. If you need directions or further information you can call 615-898-7770.

If this is not possible, it is recommended that you dispose of your unwanted medication into the trash.

It is also recommended that you remove any personal information off the labels of the containers before disposing of them.

Instead of simply dumping or crushing the pills into the trash the FDA recommends mixing the medication with a particularly objectionable substance such as coffee grounds or kitty litter and then sealing this in a container such as a plastic bag.

This procedure will help ensure that the drugs will not be accidentally ingested by child or a pet.

Properly disposing of unneeded medications is also important to prevent the medications from being pilfered by people that are not intended to be in possession of the drugs. A growing problem for teens is the practice of stealing medication from their parents, grandparents, neighbors or other adults for their own use or for selling.

Although use of illicit drugs has long been a problem for teens, there is growing preference for trafficking in stolen prescription drugs.

Among teens that experiment with or use drugs there is a perception prescription drugs are safer to use than street drugs. Most prescription drugs being used by teens were stolen from their own home or the home of a friend.

The five most common types of drugs being stolen from homes include narcotic pain relievers, stimulants such as Ritalin, sedatives such as Valium, sleep drugs such as Ambien, and cough medications that include dextromethorphan.
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Health, Health Care, Living Well, Medicine
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