MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – In a frustrating quirk in government policy, the most tightly controlled drugs – like painkilling narcotics prone to abuse – are the ones that most often elude environmental regulation when they become waste.
Federal narcotics regulators impose strict rules meant to keep controlled pharmaceuticals out of the wrong hands. Yet those rules also make these drugs nearly impossible to handle safely as waste, say hospital environmental administrators.
Many would like to send controlled substances to landfills or incinerators to keep them out of waterways as much as possible. Instead, they are nearly always dropped into sinks and toilets by hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
The problem is huge, because more than 365 medicines are controlled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration – almost 12 percent of all prescriptions, the agency says. They include widely used narcotics, stimulants, depressants and steroids – drugs like codeine, morphine, oxycodone, diazepam (often sold as Valium) and methylphenidate (often sold as Ritalin).