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Ask Dr. Gott 5/29
Tips for getting rid of prescription bottles
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: What is the safest way to dispose of old prescription bottles and outdated medication? I am afraid to just throw the bottles away because of all the information on the labels. I am also afraid to throw the pills in the garbage because I live in a rural area and regularly have wild animals get into my trashcans (despite my attempts to keep them out).
    DEAR READER: A short time ago, I responded to a reader who indicated she was reluctant to dispose of empty prescription bottles in the garbage because of all the personal information contained on the label. I suggested she use a magic marker to cover the information, or soak the bottles in hot water before removing the label. Since that column appeared, I have received several letters from readers with different ideas.
    -- A blow dryer applied to labels for a few seconds will remove the label quickly.
    -- Place the empty bottle in a container of water and heat it in the microwave for one or two minutes.
    -- Use a single-edge razor blade to scrape labels off, taking extra care to make sure your hand doesn't slip.
    -- Ask your local-pharmacy staff whether they have a means of shredding and disposing of old prescription bottles. Many have the capability, and they will dispose of unused medications, too. This suggestion sounds great to me, as it guarantees your privacy and helps with recycling at the same time.
    -- Outdated medications can be discarded easily by flushing them down the toilet. Birth-control pills are excellent plant fertilizers (one pill every two or four weeks). Readers, thank you for your ideas.

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 78-year-old male who was told at least eight years ago at a diabetic seminar to start using Equal in my coffee instead of sugar. I became ill in January of this year with dizziness, weakness and loss of balance. One night, I fell and couldn't get up. My wife phoned for the ambulance to take me to the hospital, where I remained for a week.
    Later, I saw my family doctor, who sent me to two specialists who could not help me. Then I read the letter in your column from the lady whose mother had identical problems. After discontinuing taking aspartame, she became her old self again. I subsequently found aspartame is in Equal. I stopped taking it three weeks ago, and now I feel wonderful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    DEAR READER: Frankly, I am amazed by the number of my readers who have had unpleasant reactions to aspartame. The sugar substitute can cause a wide range of medical problems, including life-threatening reactions.
    I would feel more comfortable — as I'm sure you would — by eliminating any product that contains aspartame and substituting pure fructose, Fruit Sweet or similar products instead. Better still, drink that coffee black. You'll be amazed by how quickly you come to enjoy the true taste of tea, coffee and other products to which you previously added sweeteners.
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