I had a change in my medications and now I have extra pills. What should I do?

Unless your provider tells you to keep them, you should dispose of them safely as soon as you can. Keeping extra medications in your house can confuse you or a family about what to take or increase the chance of an accidental ingestion, which is when someone -- usually a child -- takes a medication they don’t need.

Both of these situations are dangerous and can land people in the Emergency Department. If an active duty military member accidentally takes a controlled medication they aren’t prescribed or from an expired prescription, urine testing can show these results and can lead to career troubles. Also many medications lose their strength as they age, and others can be dangerous if taken when expired

How do I safely dispose of my unused medications? Should I flush them down the toilet?

When you flush medications down the toilet or wash them down the sink, they enter our drinking water and streams, rivers, and lakes. Sewage treatment plants cant clean them out of the water, and one recent study showed most US streams test positive for human medications, and even some drinking water has low levels of medications. This can hurt fish and other aquatic animals.

There are many ways to safely dispose of unused drugs. Naval Hospital Lemoore pharmacy does not take them back, but you can ask your provider or the pharmacy for a mailing envelope to return them to the DEA. The Kings County Sherrif’s Office also has a drop off box you can access 24 hours a day in Hanford.

Can I throw them away in my trash?

You can also throw away your medications in the garbage, but first you have to destroy them to be safe. Start by destroying the label or taking it off. Then fill the pill bottle with some water and add something to soak up the water like sand, powdered spices, or kitty litter. Close the bottle and tape it shut, then put the bottle in your garbage can and cover it with other trash so nobody can see it.

Man, this all seems very complicated. How can I reduce medication waste?

If you are starting on a new medication or making changes to your regimen, ask for a smaller number of pills- maybe a week or two. This way, if the new medicine doesn’t agree with you or doesn’t work the way, you aren’t left with 90 pills if you stop taking it. If the new medication works out, then you can get set up for a full 3 month supply.

If you have any questions about your medications or how to dispose of them, contact your Medical Homeport Team for help. Your health and safety is our chief concern!

Lt. Gillian Wackowski, D.O., is a Naval Hospital Lemoore Medical Homeport physician. She is a Family Medicine Doctor on Medical Homeport Gold Team and sees patients of all ages.