WASHINGTON Got some leftover drugs -- the kind that someone else might want to use, such as painkillers or stimulants? Wrap them up in used kitty litter or other pet droppings, the government advises.
A pilot program at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is looking at ways people can safely dispose of unused prescription drugs that are liable to be abused.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing some of the most dangerous ones down the toilet, including the strong, addictive painkillers oxycodone and fentanyl and stimulants such as methylphenidate.
But environmentalists worry about the effects on fish and amphibians.
On its Web site at www.samhsa.gov/rxsafety/, SAMHSA recommends ways to disguise leftover pills.
"Mixing prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and putting them in impermeable, nondescript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags, will further ensure the drugs are not diverted," it says.
Of course some people do not drink coffee. But maybe they have a pet ferret.
"Ferret waste, like nearly any other form of pet waste, can be effectively used to help prevent the abuse of unused prescription drugs," SAMHSA spokesman Mark Weber said.
This news delighted the American Ferret Association.
"The U.S. government declares ferret poop to be an effective weapon against drug abuse," the group said in a statement.
SAMHSA said the problem is no joke.
"One in five teens reports intentionally misusing someone else's prescription drugs to get high. Nearly half say they get the medications from friends and relatives for free," it says in a statement.
Dr. Ilene Ruhoy of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, studied leftover pharmaceuticals found in the homes of 473 people who died in 2006. She found 3,562 controlled substances, or an average of nearly eight per person.
More than half were hydrocodone painkiller products, while the rest were oxycodone, morphine or fentanyl.