Drugs, Disposal Of

One of the interesting things about cancer sufferers is the quantity and scope of the drugs needed to live their lives painlessly — what’s known in the medical business as “palliative” care (you’re going to die soon, but we’re going to make your life as bearable as possible, with all the drugs you need).

We were already on this train, of course, with Connie’s incurable back troubles. That was morphine, quite a bit, taken three times a day just so she could walk the few steps to the kitchen and back, and ditto to the bathroom and back. Then, with cancer, came a whole battalion of new stuff: hydrocodone for the pain, Ativan / Xanax for the emotional stress, something to make her sleep, something (actually, quite a few things) to make her bowels work (pain meds stop you up like concrete), something to help her bladder, something to alleviate the nausea caused by taking so many drugs in concert, and so on, and so on, and so on.

The end result was that after she died, I was left with a metric tonne of prescription narcotics. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the “street” value of the drugs I had left, and it appeared that I might not be able to pay off the house, but I could certainly pay off the car. (Source: the DEA website: government as a source of useful if questionable data, who knew?)

Anyway, I wasn’t about to sell the narcotics on the street, a.) because it’s the wrong thing to do, b.) because it’s illegal (and if you can’t tell the difference between the two, there’s a job waiting for you at the Clinton Foundation), and c.) because I have absolutely no idea how or even where to start this kind of felony. (My luck, the very first person I approached with: “Hi, wanna buy some morphine or Xanax?” would turn out to be an undercover cop.) And, good grief: none of my friends and relatives were interested, because, well, because they’re all law-abiding, non-drug-abusing people and could get drugs from their doctors if they needed them.

And just being in possession of all these drugs in these quantities was probably some kind of felony. I had to get rid of them; but how and where?

Nobody wanted me to flush them down the toilet or in the sink, because that meant the drugs would eventually get into the water supply. So I tried to do the right thing.

First, I went to the drugstore which had provided so many of the drugs to us: no dice. Obviously, the drugs can’t be re-issued, and they didn’t do disposal of unused / unwanted drugs, either. The pharmacist told me to try the Fire Department; apparently, they could take and destroy the stuff.

Except that wasn’t the case. The Plano FD, apparently, had stopped that program years ago. How about the Plano PD, they suggested. So off I went to our local police, with whom I have had a pleasant and amiable relationship for over a dozen years (except for the Girl Scout Incident which was all a big mistake anyway).

Here’s where it gets funny. “We don’t accept drugs, except in April and October, where we have a partnership with the DEA.” As Connie had had the temerity to die in February, and not in sync with Law Enforcement’s schedule, I would have to wait until April. Which I wasn’t about to do.

The DEA informed me that it wasn’t their jurisdiction; it was a local matter. (One wonders how disinterested they’d have been if I’d tried to sell the narcotics to one of their undercover agents in the street, but let me not denigrate the efforts of our federal law enforcement agencies.)

In desperation, I called the hospice nurse who had taken such good care of Connie over the last few months of her life, and finally(!) got a halfway-decent response. Here’s what she told me to do.

Crush everything up into powder. Soak a large number of paper towels with a solution of dish soap and water. Spread the powder evenly over the paper towels, and wait for them to dry. Throw the dried paper towels away in the trash, or burn them outside and throw the ashes in the trash. All this sounded eminently reasonable and responsible.

So I flushed them all down the toilet.


  1. I had a similar issue on a much smaller scale with some drugs left over from a wisdom tooth surgery. Turns out there is a box for disposal at city hall, built like a mailbox with a one-way chute, but bomb-proof from the looks of it.

  2. No, officer, I have no idea how that leftover morphine wound up vacuum sealed in my SHTF bag.

  3. Yes. Totally irresponsible, absolutely horrible of you. 😀 And I did the same damn thing for the same damn reason after my “let’s see if we can cut out the cancer” surgery on my tongue. Which so far looks like it might have worked.

  4. The ‘official’ answer, here in the People’s Republik of Maryland, is to take your ‘leftover’ prescription pharmaceuticals to the local Sheriff’s office – where they’ll take them off your hands, presumably ‘no questions asked’. I can’t help but wonder if the security cameras would ‘make’ you (and/or your license plate) for later ‘monitoring’ – if the aforementioned ‘medicines’ weren’t contained in their originally dispensed containers, or were in any other way of questionable provenance….

    What, me paranoid?

    The question isn’t: Are you paranoid?
    The question is: Are you paranoid enough?

    And yes, we’ve got lots of work to do to push ‘Big Brother’ back far enough that such thinking really is as crazy as it sounds. :-/

  5. When my parents passed they had been on prescription meds provided by the hospice. When each of them passed, a hospice nurse came out to the house to do the ‘declaration’ and clean up. The meds were checked against dosage sheets kept by the caregivers to match remaining pill counts and the volumes of the liquid meds.

    She got a large ziplock bag of what she said was kitty litter (clay type) and wood ashes from her car. The pills were crushed and mixed in, then the liquid meds were mixed in, then soapy water poured in to make it a slurry. That was sealed in the ziplock bag and they actually threw it into the house garbage can, saying it was ok to do so given the preceding steps.

  6. The hospice I worked for used clumping kitty litter. Once the drugs plus water slurry was mixed in, the litter turned into cement. We too just tossed the bag into the trash.

  7. I have, sitting on my kitchen table, an envelope intended to be used for this exact purpose. I find it ironic that the address on it is a Texas address.

  8. When my mom passed from cancer, they had my father put all the pills in an adult diaper, pour a bunch of water over them then wrap it up tight and throw it in the trash.

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