Health Assess: what should you do with your newfound medication?

Amanda Wheeler, Griffith University; Emilie Bettington, Griffith University; Fiona Kelly, Griffith University, along with Jean Spinks, Griffith University

If you should look on your kitchen or bathroom cupboard, the odds are you would get some unused medication.

Maybe you recovered from surgery more quickly than you expected, and did not take all of the strong painkillers your physician prescribed. Or maybe you took a medication so long ago that it is expired the cardboard packaging is disintegrating, and also you can not be certain what it was for in the first place.

But stockpiling medicines at home can be risky, not just. And disposing of these down the bathroom or in the garbage carries dangers too.

Our new study, published in the Australian Health Review, reveals that the two practices are typical. And few individuals know just how to safely dispose of unwanted or expired drugs.

Just how big is the issue?

Pharmacists dispensed 208 million government-subsidised prescriptions in the 2015-16 financial year. And in a 2015 nationwide poll, eight out of ten adults stated they had used at least one non-prescription medication in the preceding month.

Our study showed that almost two out of three people (60 percent) surveyed said they had unwanted medicines at home, and one-third (33 percent) of these medicines had died.

Medication can be unused or left for a number of reasons. Maybe we decide not to choose what our physician prescribed, or else we feel better so that we think we no longer want this, or so the physician changes our medication and prescribes something else.

Keeping medicines to utilize for reoccurring conditions, such as migraines, is not appropriate. But maintaining antibiotics to utilize for a different infection may result in treatment failure in case these antibiotics do not aim the new disease. As soon as we use antibiotics incorrectly, bacteria may also change to become more resistant to cure.

Stockpiling medicines at home may also be a safety issue. Kids or pets may accidentally eat or drink them older people can become confused about which ones to choose, and medicines are able to lose their effectiveness or become toxic after their expiry date.

Then there are security problems like theft. This is particularly relevant for opioid medicines (strong pain relievers such as codeine) prescribed after operation, which can be sold in the black market.

1 recent US research found that many opioids prescribed after operation were unused, and not preserved or disposed of securely.

A state of hoarders

To find out what individuals do with their unused medicines, we surveyed over 4,300 Australians.

Most people (75 percent) stated they retained medicines if they had them later on. Other reasons included not wanting to waste money, not understanding how to dispose of them planning to give them to family members and friends, or denying that the medicines were there.

Individuals reported commonly saving their medicines in kitchens bedrooms and/or bathrooms. Whenever the very same medicines are stored in a number of locations, individuals could inadvertently take higher doses than recommended. This is because multiple brands of exactly the identical medication may result in confusion and the danger of duplicating a dose.

Lots of people were surprised by how a lot of their medicines were died and a few reported using expired drugs. This may delay treatment if they are not as effective, and sterile remedies like eye drops could be harmful if they’ve become infected.

When people said they had previously disposed of unwanted medicines, the most common causes of this were that medicines had died, were no more needed, or therapy had shifted.

From the garbage and then down the bathroom

In the 12 weeks to 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that over one million Australian households dropped undesirable medicines with their normal garbage.

Our poll also found evidence for it, with most respondents (65%) having disposed of unwanted medicines such a way. About a quarter (23%) stated they had poured unwanted medicines down the toilet or drain.

Either of the disposal methods might cause problems. For instance, there is the danger of identity theft from personal information on medication labels disposed of in the garbage.

Then there are possible dangers from drugs that end up in surface and drinking water. This is because sewerage systems are not equipped to remove medicines and their metabolites (by-products) effectively. So these can be discharged into waterways and then into drinking water supplies. Medicines disposed from the garbage end up in landfill and may leach more slowly into water systems.

Once in deserts, drugs and their metabolites can impact plant, marine and animal life. For example, hormone-containing drugs can have feminising impacts on fish around wastewater treatment works, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are found in waste water, surface water and drinking water.

Compounds in surface and groundwater have also been found to put algae, daphnids (small crustaceans) and fish at risk.

Medications within our drinking water may potentially impact humans too, but that requires further study.

The way to dispose of medicines safely

Back in 1998, the Australian authorities introduced the Return Unwanted Medicines Project because of free strategy and encourage people to:

  • Read the labels in their stored medicines to determine whether they had perished or were really needed
  • remove them from where they’re stored (and put in a bag or container),
  • reunite them for their regional pharmacy for safe disposal.

Once you hand on your unused or expired medicines, pharmacy staff put them in special bins. The bins are then hauled to one of three nationwide incineration websites where they are disposed by high-temperature incineration.

Yet, our study found over 80 percent of people hadn’t heard of this strategy; that was for both consumers and health-care employees. However after they understood about it, 92% stated they would utilize it.

All caregivers, not only pharmacists, may remind people to return their unwanted medicines so they may be disposed of securely.

All of us have a part to play minimise the dangers connected with unwanted medicines.

Amanda Wheeler, Professor, Griffith University; Emilie Bettington, Research fellow, Griffith University; Fiona Kelly, Pharmacy Lecturer, Griffith University, and also Jean Spinks, Research Fellow, Griffith University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.