Every year, millions of Americans receive prescriptions for a controlled substance. Controlled substances are a broad category, and their application spans a wide range. However, no matter what the medical use of a controlled substance is, it requires a specific disposal process.
What this specific disposal process entails depends on a few factors. Regulations differ by state, and often by county, and how a healthcare provider disposes of their controlled substances will likely look a lot different than how a single person does. Disposing of 1,000 excess medications usually takes a different form than getting rid of a few leftover pills.
What Qualifies as a Controlled Substance
Controlled substances, broadly speaking, are any drug that falls into the five categories designated by the Controlled Substances Act. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determine the drugs that fall within each category. (Insert drug schedule image)
Schedule I drugs are classified as having no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse. Examples include LSD, ecstasy, and heroin.
Schedule II drugs differ from Schedule I, as they are classified as having a medical use, but also have a high risk for dependency and abuse. Common examples of Schedule II drugs are morphine, opium, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.
Drugs classified as Schedule III-V all have medical uses, and their classifications depends on the risk of dependency and abuse. As you go down in schedule, from III to IV, and then IV to V, the potential for risk and abuse lowers.
Schedule III drugs include low-dose codeine (under 90mg per dose) medication, ketamine, and testosterone, Schedule IV includes Xanax, Valium, Ambien, and Tramadol, and Schedule V drugs include Lyrica, Motofen, and Lomotil.
For a list of all controlled substances, you can click here.
Controlled Substance Disposal Options for Healthcare
Healthcare organizations, whether they be clinics, private practices, or hospitals, often deal with controlled substances at high volumes due to their ubiquity in treatment. Larger organizations might have an approved incinerator on site, where they can dispose of unused or expired medications themselves.
For smaller organizations, it is probably not practical to run an incinerator on-site. In these cases, a certified medical waste provider presents the best option. At regular or scheduled intervals, a disposal provider comes to your location and picks up any controlled substances that need disposal. After pick-up, it then takes them to an approved incinerator, following all national, state, and local regulations.
Controlled Substance Disposal for Individuals
For someone with a few leftover pills, the best option for disposal will likely be a local drop off site. The DEA maintains a list of approved disposal sites across the country, where you can get rid of any leftover controlled substances around your house.
Since these drugs require ‘non-retrievable’ destruction by law, you can’t simply mix them in with trash or with coffee grounds or cat litter. While flushing used to be a common practice, it’s no longer recommended, unless the drug is included on the FDA flush list.
Controlled Substance Disposal with Medical Waste Pros
Medical Waste Pros partners with certified disposal providers across the country who can take care of any of your controlled substance disposal needs. Give us a call at (855) 755-6370, and we’ll connect you to a licensed and reliable medical waste disposal provider in your area in just minutes.