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The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has partnered with the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force to promote safe disposal practices in Indiana. In addition to preventing medicine theft, prescription drug abuse, accidental poisoning, and identity theft, proper disposal of medicines also prevents adverse environmental impacts. Pharmacists, educators, health care providers, and waste managers are working to promote safe disposal. As a member of the Task Force, IDEM is helping to spread the word about alternatives.
There are several options for properly disposing of unwanted and expired medications:
Remember, it is illegal to give controlled substances to anyone other than a police officer or a person who is under law enforcement supervision. All programs that accept controlled substances must be operated under the supervision of law enforcement.
If you must throw away unwanted or expired medicines, follow these instructions to protect your family and the environment:
More information about household needles or sharps collection programs and the safe management of sharps is available from the Recycle Indiana website.
Unwanted and expired medicine may be a risk to human health and the environment if disposed of improperly.
Wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are not designed to deal with pharmaceutical waste. Many medicines pass through the systems and are released into streams, lakes, and groundwater.
Medicine in surface water may cause adverse effects in fish and other aquatic wildlife, as well as unintentional human exposure to chemicals in the medicine. Technological improvements are helping scientists detect trace amounts of medicine in surface water and study how it affects human and environmental health, but the research is just beginning.
U.S. Geological Survey research found that some aquatic organisms living in waters downstream from wastewater treatments plants are showing signs of developmental and reproductive problems. Researchers are working to determine whether these impacts are the effects of pharmaceuticals in the environment.
In the meantime, the best way to reduce the impact of pharmaceutical waste on the environment is to dispose of medicine properly. Find an unwanted medicines take back collection program [PDF] near you or read the Unwanted Medicines fact sheet (available on the IDEM Fact Sheets page) to properly dispose of medicine.
Indiana's pharmacists, educators, health care providers, and waste managers raised concerns about:
In response to these concerns, IDEM and the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force developed the following information about unwanted medicine: