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Just say no to [flushing] drugs

Dear Lucy: Your reply to Waste Not Want Not’s question about medication expiration dates was admirably clear and helpful. Would you please answer a follow-up? 
I’ve had trouble locating ways to properly dispose of expired and unneeded medications. Some pharmacies sell little bags for this purpose that can be mailed somewhere. And I’ve heard that some police stations will take expired meds. But since we consumers and MIT pay so much for the meds in the first place, shouldn’t MIT Medical be making it easier for us to do the right thing? Perhaps a drop-off at the MIT Pharmacy? Or maybe the pharmacy can make arrangements with drug distributors? Thanks. —It’s Not Easy Being Green

Dear Greenie: Lucy is a strong believer in making it easy for people to do the right thing. And she, too, has been frustrated by the lack of an easy way to dispose of unwanted medications, some of which currently reside on the top shelf of her bathroom cabinet. Flushing unwanted medications down the toilet is legal—the FDA even recommends it in some cases—but we also know that flushed medications can pollute water sources, as can medications that end up in landfills after being thrown in the trash.
What’s a would-be environmentalist to do?
Lucy put these questions to MIT Medical’s chief pharmacist, Georgene Bloomfield, who explains that the MIT Pharmacy is unable to install a drop-off kiosk due to issues involving licensing and security. “But,” she says, “We know our patients care about disposing of unwanted medications in a responsible manner, and we’re now offering them a way to do just that.” 
Bloomfield tells Lucy that the MIT Pharmacy is currently offering two options for responsible medication disposal—at no charge to patients—postage-paid mailing envelopes and a drug-deactivation system that renders pharmaceutical compounds inert and safe for disposal with ordinary household waste. “The postage-paid envelopes work well for people who have many unwanted medications or who have liquid medications to dispose of,” Bloomfield explains. “Each envelope can hold a number of medications in their original containers to be sent off for safe disposal.”
Lucy had only a small amount of unwanted medication to dispose of, however, so Bloomfield presented her with the second alternative, a small pouch with an inner packet of activated carbon, a drug-deactivating agent. Mixed with water, up to 15 tablets of medication can be safely deactivated in each pouch.
Bloomfield encourages you to stop by the MIT Pharmacy and ask for the drug-disposal option that best suits your needs. Undergraduates who need to dispose of small amounts of medications may also pick up drug-deactivation pouches from the MedLinks in their residences and living groups.
Thank you so much for asking this question and helping Lucy get the word out about these new, no-cost, medication-disposal options from the MIT Pharmacy. Here’s to a greener tomorrow! —Lucy

Back to Ask Lucy Information contained in Ask Lucy is intended solely for general educational purposes and is not intended as professional medical advice related to individual situations. Always obtain the advice of a qualified healthcare professional if you need medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Never disregard medical advice you have received, nor delay getting such advice, because of something you read in this column.