Pitching pills properly

  • Published
  • By Capt. Tasha Standing Soldier
  • 28th Medical Group Pharmany officer in charge
When you look into your medicine cabinet, do you have old prescription medications lingering? Maybe leftover pain medication from surgery or antibiotics you didn't finish? What about small amounts of elixirs that are no good? If so, what should be done with them? The answer is to remove them as soon as possible. 

However, there are general guidelines to keep these old medications from accumulating in the first place. 

First, always take medications exactly the way they are prescribed by your doctor. Prescriptions for long past acute pain situations (i.e Vicodin for knee surgery 6 months ago) shouldn't be taken for a headache you may have now, and you should never share medication with anyone, because it's written for you. 

Also important to note, is medications may have a shelf life anywhere from a few days to a year. If the drug is expired (especially antibiotics), the efficacy of that medication is no longer guaranteed and can even harm you if taken beyond the expiration date. 

When it does come time to dispose of medications, you can follow some simple procedures to properly remove them from your home. 

These drugs should be removed from their original container prior to disposal. Prescription bottles are easy to recognize and can be stolen from your garbage. Also, before you throw out old prescription bottles, be sure to black out your name and personal information with a permanent marker. 

Next, mix your old medications with other refuse and throw them into the garbage; disposing of drugs in this manner will prevent medications from falling into the wrong hands. 

It is best to mix your medications with old coffee grounds or kitty litter and place them in a sealed bag or empty can or jar. Then, throw the jar or bag away in the trash. This method will help prevent accidental ingestion of these medications by children and pets, and it also helps divert drug theft.

However, do not flush drugs down the toilet, unless otherwise stated on the medication label or the drug information pamphlet given to you by your local pharmacy. Flushing drugs down the toilet could contaminate ground and surface water; disposing medications properly through the trash helps ensure they end up in a contained sold waste landfill. 

Active-duty servicemembers need to understand that when a provider prescribes a controlled substance for acute therapies (i.e dental procedures, etc) any leftover medication needs to be disposed of as indicated above. Historically, active-duty personnel have been prosecuted and or investigated because of inappropriate use of controlled substance prescriptions. 

If there are any prescription medication questions, call the 28th Medical Group Pharmacy at (605) 385-3250.