How can you reduce drug waste created at home?
You can prevent drugs from becoming waste at home by maintaining personal health and managing medications differently.
Pharmaceutical waste is created when:
- we have a bad reaction to a new medication
- our medication dose needs to be adjusted
- we don't take medications as directed
- we buy or accept more than is needed
- we think we need a pill for everything
Implementing just one of the following ideas can reduce the impact of drugs on our environment:
Take care of yourself
- Stay healthy. Eat a balanced diet, exercise routinely, brush and floss your teeth and get enough sleep. Basic self-care may help reduce your reliance on current medications or prevent the need to take medications in the future.
- Lose excess weight. Reducing your weight may enable your doctor to reduce your dose for conditions relating to blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol and depression.
- Schedule yearly wellness visits and visit free health screenings to catch conditions early.
- Spend quality time with friends and family to help reduce excessive stress which can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, digestive issues and muscle pain.
- Engage in relaxing activities such as walking, meditation, yoga, reading and hobbies.
- Let go of resentments, blame and other negative emotions. Negativity hurts you more than the other person.
Be a good role model
- Invite young people to enjoy wholesome activities that do not involve the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Be mindful of how you use medications in front of children and teens. They learn by example, so be sure to discuss your medications responsibly and take them as prescribed.
- Check out resources such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Assume more responsibility for the medications you do use
- Before needing medications, explore natural, health-enhancing alternatives.
- When starting a new medication, talk to your doctor about possible side effects, drug interactions and alternative drugs or treatments that may result in less waste or fewer effects on the environment.
- Also, when starting a new medication, ask your doctor to prescribe a limited quantity to see if the drug will work for you. Don't automatically purchase a 30, 60, or 90 day supply. You may be able to save money as well as reduce pharmaceutical waste. Medicare and Medicaid allow for trial prescriptions.
- If offered medication samples, ask your doctor to give you only enough to try. Don't accept large amounts, because if the medication doesn't work, you will have to waste it.
- Consider asking your doctor to check out GreenPharmEdu, an online continuing education program for health professionals to learn how to reduce pharmaceutical waste and the harm it may cause the environment.
- Take your medications as directed by your physician.
- Ask your pharmacist and doctor to review all your medications periodically, to optimize their use.
Purchase medications wisely
- Keep track of the medications you have in your home so you don't purchase products you already have.
- Purchase smaller amounts of common over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers, to ensure the medication is used before its expiration date.
- If your pharmacy automatically mails you refills, inform the pharmacy immediately when you stop taking that medication.
Store medications properly
- Store medications at the proper temperature and humidity level as recommended on the label. Due to high humidity, bathrooms are not always the best place to store medicine.
- Keep all your medications in one place so you don't buy more than you can use before they expire.
- Lock up any medications that could be cause for poisoning or misuse, especially pain medication.
Everyone involved in the life cycle of pharmaceuticals can reduce waste. To learn more, visit:
- UW Extension's list of medication collections in Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin DNR's pharmaceutical waste pages which explain how to dispose of unwanted medications.
- UW Extension's Pharmaceutical Waste Blog which provides waste reduction information for policy makers, pharmacies, healthcare providers and manufacturers.