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Safety First – Properly Disposing of Diabetes Supplies

Why you should never just toss old meds

Laura KolodjeskiLaura Kolodjeski

My family is preparing to move and that means sorting through all the items that mysteriously accumulate over the years. When cleaning out our medicine cabinet, I came across several medications past their expiration date. Not certain of the best way to dispose of out-of-date medications, I did a little research and found some good information on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. My biggest takeaway? Don’t just toss expired medication bottles in the trash, because it can lead to pills ending up in the wrong hands, or even compromise your personal medical information. As I read through the proper process to dispose of medications, I thought the information would be helpful for people living with diabetes and their caregivers.

According to the FDA, disposing of your medications properly is not only a safety issue but a health issue. Some prescriptions can simply be flushed down the sink or toilet, while others can be thrown in the trash – there are just some precautions you should take first. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Either scratch off the label or use a heavy marker to completely remove personal information on prescription bottles. This keeps your medical information out of the hands of others.
  • Mix medicine with undesirable substances like coffee grinds, cat litter, or dirt.
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag; and
  • Throw the container in your household trash. Do NOT recycle.
  • Do NOT dispose of medication down the drain or toilet unless it states that is the proper way to dispose of the item.
  • Do NOT keep excess or expired medication around the home.
  • Keep all medications out of reach of children.
  • If you are unsure how to dispose of your medication, ask your pharmacist.

Although sharps aren’t something I have around my house, I know they are often an important aspect of living with diabetes. You should identify an appropriate container to dispose of your sharps at home. Or, keep an eye out for red boxes at doctor’s offices and clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and other locations to dispose of your sharps.  Also, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist if they offer disposal, or if they know of safe disposal programs in the area.

Some other ways to dispose of sharps include:

  • Mail-Back Programs: You can place your used sharps in special containers and return the container by mail to a collection site for proper disposal. There is usually a fee for this type of service. You may find some mail back options by checking with your health care provider or pharmacist.
  • Syringe Exchange Programs (SEP): Patients who use sharps exchange used needles for new needles.
  • Needle Destruction Devices: Several manufacturers offer products that allow patients to destroy used needles at home by severing, burning or melting the needle, rendering it safe for disposal. Again, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

I’m glad I took a few minutes to learn about the recommended ways to dispose of medications. I hadn’t realized there were so many things to take into consideration when it comes to disposing of the various types of medication and sharps.  Are there other tips or suggestions of which you are aware? Feel free to leave a comment below or go to our Facebook page to share them with others who may benefit from your knowledge.

All the best,

Laura K.

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