Proper Disposal of Unused Prescription Medications

If you find yourself wanting to get rid of unused, expired or unwanted prescription medications, but don’t know how to go about it, consider these alternatives.

Look into the availability of a medicine take-back program in your community. You can contact your city or county government’s waste management and recycling services to see if this type of program is offered in your area. Find out if there are any restrictions on the types of medications they will accept. Your local pharmacy may also be able to answer your questions. I have also recently noticed that in pharmacies, usually near where the pill organizers, there are postage pre-paid mailer envelope bags that you can purchase and enclose your unused prescriptions (with certain restrictions on certain drugs). You then simply drop the envelope bag in the mail or hand it to your postal carrier.

If no medicine take-back program is offered in your area, another alternative is to throw them out with the trash. Do not simply toss pill bottles into the trash, as someone else may be easily able to obtain them. Without crushing/opening medicines, mix them in with used coffee grounds or used kitty litter, place in a sealed bag and cover up well inside the trash receptacle.

A select few medications are considered unsafe to dispose of in any other way except by flushing or rinsing down the drain. These are the types of medications that could be fatal to children, pets or anyone who might ingest them. The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, recommends disposal by flushing with these medications when there is no other disposal alternative. The FDA feels the risk of harm to others is greater by keeping them in the household than it is to the water supply.

With the increasing level of children abusing their parents prescription medication, and the general risk of a child or pet accidentally finding and ingesting unused drugs, it is best to get rid of the medications you no longer need.

Please visit: for more information on the proper disposal of unused medications, and for the list of medications for which flushing is the recommended method of disposal.

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