Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Old Meds? Don't Flush--Turn It Into Mush

Like many people, I had always followed the conventional wisdom that old medicines should be flushed down the toilet instead of just thrown away, so that the drugs couldn't fall into the hands of kids, people rooting through your garbage, or pets (OK, that last one would be falling into the wrong paws, but you get the idea). But now comes word that flushing is a bad idea:
Mixing cough syrup, Vicodin or Lipitor with cat litter is the new advice on getting rid of unused medications. Preferably used cat litter.

It's a compromise, better for the environment than flushing — and one that renders dangerous medicines too yucky to try if children, pets or drug abusers stumble through the trash.

A government experiment is about to send that advice straight to thousands of patients who use potent painkillers, sleeping pills and other controlled substances.

Why? Prescription drug abuse is on the rise, and research suggests more than half of people who misuse those drugs get them for free from a friend or relative. In other words, having leftovers in the medicine cabinet is a risky idea. Anyone visiting your house could swipe them.

[...]Not a cat owner? Old coffee grounds work, or doggie doo, even sawdust. Just seal the meds and the, er, goop in a plastic bag before tossing in the trash.
OK...now I'm curious. Do I still have cat litter in the house? After all, cat died over a year ago. Surely I'm not that much of a pack rat, am I? Pardon me just a second...

(Returns a few moments later) Well, yes I do. A rather big container, as a matter of fact. And a cat brush. I guess I'm set whenever the next one comes around, and I can certainly throw away the old meds that way. And since we're back on the subject at hand, I had no idea that flushing the meds could mess up the water supply, cause fish abnormalities, etc. I guess this is a good thing to know.

There is one more interesting component to this issue--when exactly do you throw stuff away:
"There is a $64,000 question here: Whether people really will get rid of it," says Carol J. Boyd, director of the University of Michigan's Institute for Research on Women and Gender and a well-known specialist on drug diversion.

Say you're prescribed a week's worth of Vicodin for pain after a car crash, and you use only three days' worth. Most people would keep the rest, to avoid paying for more if they suffer serious pain for some other reason later. Boyd isn't sure how to counter that money issue.

But keeping the leftovers makes them accessible for misuse by children, other relatives or visitors. Stealing aside, Boyd's research uncovered that friends and family openly share these pills — "Use this, it helped me" — even with teens and college students, apparently not realizing there could be serious health consequences.
Hmm--good point. I'm not at the point where anyone would go through my medicine cabinet, and I'd never, ever share anything that I had received as a prescription. But I see where they're coming from on this.

One more thing--I wonder if I have any expired meds now; I'll step out for one more second.

(Back again) Hmm, the only thing that's possibly litterworthy is some cold medicine with a July '07 date on it. Guess it's time to make a NyQuil and Fresh Steps "sundae"--yummmm.

So what's in your medicine cabinet at the moment? And if you don't have cat litter, how will you dispose of it?

I bet the school would love to flush this idea: A student at UT-San Antonio--who doubles as an exotic dancer--has petitioned to start a porn club at the school.

It's a good thing they aren't hosting the X-Games: Nearly 3500 Chinese kids have been given the name "Olympics" (or at least the Chinese translation thereof) since it was announced that Beijing was getting next year's Games.

Can we stand one more movie sequel? With the screenwriters on strike, we might have to settle for reruns...so give it up for Snakes in a Tub.

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