January 2018
The Herb Lady

Medicine Disposal

Are you following the recommended practices?

This article is not about herbs or alternatives. It is about a problem created by the disposal of prescribed and over-the-counter medicines. Until recently, we either threw them into the garbage or flushed them down the toilet. This has changed.

It has been determined that these medications are infiltrating our ground water and possibly our entire ecological system.

Some communities are setting up a special disposal area. However, you can simply deliver them to your local police station or take them to your pharmacist. This will be the most convenient for me. After all, I go there at least once a month.

Not long ago, my primary physician prescribed amiodarone hydrochloride tablets for me. He hoped this drug would convert my heart from atrial fibrillation back to a normal sinus rhythm. This didn’t happen but it almost converted me to my Home in the Sky. I have never been sicker and definitely would not want this to infiltrate my drinking water. The remaining tablets went to my pharmacist for proper disposal. (I still have AFib and expect to for the rest of my life. I do not feel it and my life is not interrupted in any way.)

My husband died in 2006. His hospice nurse flushed all his remaining medications down the commode. This was routine at the time. The routine has changed.

Now, here is a little story from my nursing days. When my nursing career began in 1948 at Beard Hospital in Troy, I absorbed all the information my brain could handle. I distinctly remember how pain medication was controlled. The charge nurse of the day carried a container in her pocket. This container had possibly five sections. One section contained morphine. Another contained codeine. Another contained pantopon and so on. All these meds were in tiny pill form.

When we gave pain medication to a patient, we used tongs to remove a glass syringe and metal needle from boiling water. We drew 1 cc of water into the syringe. It was OK for our fingers to touch the tiny pill as we dropped it into the water. (Plastic gloves were not in existence. In fact, very little was disposable in those days.) When this was dissolved and cooled, we gave our patient the injection for pain. Of course, the administering nurse signed for these meds.

Time passed and I became Dr. Jane Day’s office nurse. (Yes, I know I worked for a legend.) She had bought a retiring doctor’s practice when she came to Montgomery to begin her own practice. Among many other items, there was a container for pain meds like I had seen at Beard’s Hospital. It was well-stocked. However, this method of giving pain medication had become obsolete.

I never gave a single one of those shots. Demerol and other liquid pain medications were then available in vials and much easier to administer.

We kept the obsolete pain meds in a safe place, of course. Time rocked on.

"Dr. Jane, don’t you think we should destroy these?" I finally asked, holding the container in my hand.

"Yes, flush them down the commode and give me the empty container," she quickly answered.

I did so. That was the way it was done.

Just think of what I put into our eco system that day.

Let’s all work together to try to keep our wonderful world wonderful.


Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 251-644-5473, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..