988 hotline one year after implementation

Proper Disposal of Prescription Medications

As time goes on, it’s easy to slowly accumulate expired, unwanted prescriptions. It’s important to properly dispose of these medications when the time comes to prevent abuse. Each year millions of people misuse medications that were taken from friends or family members. There are many ways to safely and effectively get rid of your prescription medications.

Drug take back programs

Many communities have their own drug take back programs, like the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day sponsored by the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). You can check with local law enforcement officials to find a location or find a DEA-authorized collector. Additionally, many pharmacies offer on-site drop-off boxes, mail-back programs, and more to help you dispose of your excess medicines.

At-home disposal

While using a drug take back program is typically considered the safest and most effective disposal method, there are ways to handle disposal at home. 

Certain medications need to be flushed down the sink or toilet to effectively dispose of them. Typically, disposal information can be found on the prescription label or patient information leaflet.  Alternatively, you can look at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing if a take back option isn’t feasible. If your drug isn’t listed or it isn’t recommended on the label, do not flush them.

The FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency understand public concerns about flushing medications and their impact on the environment. Fortunately, no studies have been able to prove flushing medications negatively affects the environment.

When a take back program is unobtainable, almost all medicines, besides those on the FDA flush list, can be thrown in the garbage. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter drugs in the forms of pills, drops, patches, liquids, and creams. First, you must remove the drug from the original container and mix them with a messy substance such as coffee grinds, cat litter, or even soil. Mixing these together can prevent children, pets, or snooping persons from finding and consuming them. Put the new mixture into a sealable and disposable container and throw it away. Finally, remove and destroy your personal information on the empty medicine package before throwing it away.