We all know prescription drugs are dangerous - so how best to dispose of them when you get them home from the pharmacy? The prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has come up with some helpful hints.
Many people flush them down the toilet, but a recent study discovered they get into the public water supply that way, and traces of around 100 drugs can now be detected in a glass of water in the typical American home.
But that shouldn't necessarily put you off using that method. Some drugs are best flushed down the toilet, JAMA advises, including Actiq, Oxycontin, Avinza (morphine), and any other medication that has explicit instructions on its label to do so. Most narcotic drugs should be flushed away, for instance.
If you have a non-flushable drug, try mixing it up with the cat litter, or with coffee grounds. They can be sealed in a can or plastic bag, and thrown away with the rest of the daily rubbish. But even these drugs could still find their way back into the public waterways, so be careful.
In the enterprising state of Maine, health officials have opened 'take-back' centres where people can return their drugs, although quite what the centre then does with them, nobody knows.
Another challenging thought is that doctors should prescribe fewer drugs, the journal suggests. But this can happen only over time, and doctors will need training and counselling before this approach starts to bear fruit.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2008; 299: 2011-3).