WASHINGTON (AP) – It’s time to pooper-scoop your leftover medicine.

Mixing cough syrup, Vicodin or Lipitor with kitty litter is the new advice on getting rid of unused medications. Preferably used kitty litter.

It’s a compromise, better for the environment than flushing – and one that renders dangerous medicines too yucky to try if children, pets or drug abusers stumble through the trash.

A government experiment is about to send that advice straight to thousands of patients who use potent painkillers, sleeping pills and other controlled substances.

Why? Prescription drug abuse is on the rise, and research suggests more than half of people who misuse those drugs get them for free from a friend or relative. In other words, having leftovers in the medicine cabinet is a risky idea. Anyone visiting your house could swipe them.

So 6,300 pharmacies around the country have signed up for a pilot project with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. When patients fill prescriptions for a list of abuse-prone medicines, from Ambien to Vicodin, the pharmacist also will hand over a flyer urging them to take the kitty-litter step if they don’t wind up using all their pills.

Not a cat owner? Old coffee grounds work, or doggie doo, even sawdust. Just seal the meds and the, er, goop in a plastic bag before tossing in the trash.

“We don’t want to assert that this is a panacea for the larger problem,” says SAMHSA’s Dr. H. Westley Clark. “It just provides them with a caveat that these are not things you can just lay around.”


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