Medicine disposal

  1. When we have a death we dispose of the liquid meds (morphine, lorazepam etc.) down the sink and the po meds down the toilet. What are some other methods that are used in your agency? Disposing into cat litter or coffee grounds are two other methods I have heard of. Right now our policy is to put them down the drain/toilet. I am not thrilled with this method. Thanks for your input.
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    About JNF RN

    Joined: Apr '09; Posts: 22; Likes: 8
    Hospice Nurse
    Specialty: 18 year(s) of experience in Hospice

    17 Comments

  3. by   redheadedvixen
    We are using the kitty litter/coffee grounds method because of concerns about the drugs going into the sewer system.
  4. by   marachne
    another way to deal with liquid meds is to use diapers (depending on the quantity you have).

    I would imagine if you you tabs/capsules and a sharps container, you could use that. Having to grind them up and then mix w/litter or coffee grounds seems like a major problem.

    Also, they are rare and far between, but I have found some places that will accept unused medications (but that would require an agency-level policy change.
  5. by   GrumpyRN63
    I never put anything down the sink-- into the h20 supply, pretty much flush everything down the toilet. We are also allowed to mix the meds in a baggy w/flour or cat litter and add h20 to mush it and then throw in the trash.
  6. by   JNF RN
    The water from the toilet or the sink ends up in the same place. In the rural areas we have septic tanks so the problem is more localized. I sure would like to get my agency to start using the cat litter or some other procedure. I attend 1-4 deaths on some nights. A lot of drugs go down the drain.
  7. by   Maryann RN
    We place medications ( liquid, tabs and capsules) in a plastic zip lock bag and add dish or laundry detergent. the bag is closed and then placed in regular trash. Detergen must be a regular detergent and not a natural product. The regular detergent turns the meds into a gel.
  8. by   NurseCard
    that's how we are told to do it where we work.... to dispose of all medications down the drain.
  9. by   so alive LPN
    Where I work, capsules and pills go into the sharps box, and liquids go down the toilet.
  10. by   JNF RN
    Quote from Maryann RN
    We place medications ( liquid, tabs and capsules) in a plastic zip lock bag and add dish or laundry detergent. the bag is closed and then placed in regular trash. Detergen must be a regular detergent and not a natural product. The regular detergent turns the meds into a gel.
    I like this idea best of all. I'll take it to the powers that be and see if it flies. Thanks.
  11. by   Ginapixi
    i like the detergent use and then throw it in the trash - unless the trash goes into a landfill, then we end up with medications in the drinking water again at some point..... we use cat litter; cat litter with water makes enough of a mess that no one will ever want to take those meds again; some of our nurses microwave meds incl. suppositories in a plastic bag and then throw that in the trash. We also have families who will not put meds into their garbage, they consider it medical waste and want no part in that - i have taken meds home and mixed into my own used cat litter already; I also returned some liquids to our pharmacies for appropriate disposal and they take it no questions asked.
  12. by   JNF RN
    When the trash goes to the landfill it is unlikely to enter the ground water. The landfill is a closed system where the area where the trash is being dumped is lined with plastic. This prevents toxins from reaching the ground water. I am surprised that your agency allows you to transport meds. We are not even allowed to transport an aspirin. It is funny that we can have morphine delivered by a cab driver who's background in unknown but we cannot deliver any meds. Go figure
  13. by   Maryann RN
    I just wanted to confirm that the detergent must be liquid. Guess everyone figured that out but wanted to make sure. There doesn't seem to be any ideal way to do this to keep things environmentally safe. Another suggestion that I have heard of is to add quick setting concrete mix and water to a zip lock bag with meds.
  14. by   rnboysmom
    My only concern with returning meds to pharmacies are your local and state laws regarding transportation of medications. In some states, the only time a nurse or other entity can transport medications is when they come directly from pharmacy and are in a stapled or sealed bag with labels attached. If you are in the posession of an opened drug and are stopped on a traffic stop--what is the liability for your license? In our state, if you are stopped and your car is searched (and they can do this even on a speeding violation and especially if a drug dog sniffs the drug) and you are in posession of a drug that you personally do not have a script for, you can be jailed and charged with a felony---no questions asked and no time to offer explanation.
    I like the idea of the dish detergent. I know one nurse at a company who carries a small container of "sac-crete" (sp?)(quick set concrete) and pours a small amount into a baggie with the medications and adds water. Our company still disposed into the septic system, but I wish we were more environmentally friendly. We supply all of our patients with disposal information.
    Last edit by rnboysmom on May 13, '09

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