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Safe Disposal of Unused Prescription Medicines

Safe Disposal of Unused Prescription Medicines

Don’t keep medicines around your home that you no longer use. Instead get rid of them safely.

Unused prescription medicines can easily find their way into the wrong hands. This can lead to accidental poisoning, misuse, and overdose. This is especially true for dangerous opioid pills or patches.

Don’t save medicines for later use. You might get confused about the medicines and take the wrong one or the wrong dose.

That’s why it’s important to safely dispose of unused, expired, damaged, or unwanted medicines right away. Safe disposal can save lives and protect the environment.

Pill bottles.

Find a community take-back program

Many towns have a National Take Back Day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This program offers a safe way to dispose of prescription medicines.

Some pharmacies or local law enforcement may also offer take-back programs. If a take-back program is available in your area, take your unused medicines to the drop-off right away. Don’t let them sit around your house. Check this link to see if your area has a DEA-sponsored take-back program: You can also use the DEA's Collection Site Locator for sites that will take back medicines any day:

Get rid of medicines at home

If your area has no take-back program, you may be able to safely disposal of prescription medicines at home.

First, check the package insert to see if it has specific instructions on getting rid of the medicine. If there are no instructions, you can do one of the following.

Check the FDA's "safe to flush" list

Certain medicines could be harmful or fatal with just one dose if used by someone other than the person it was prescribed for. These medicines should be flushed down the toilet. The FDA believes that the risk of harm to humans from accidental or fatal exposure to medicines on the flush list outweighs any potential risk to the water supply from flushing the medicines.

You can search the flush list at the FDA website:

Some towns may have laws against flushing medicines down the toilet. Be sure you are following your area’s laws and regulations about this method.

Put medicines in the trash

If your medicine is not on the FDA flush list, you can put it in the trash. To safely dispose of medicines in your trash, follow these steps from the FDA:

  1. Mix liquid or pills with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds. Don’t crush tablets or capsules.

  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.

  3. Put the container in your trash at home.

  4. Remove all personal information on the prescription label of empty medicine bottles or medicine packaging. Then trash or recycle the empty bottle or packaging.

Inhaler disposal

Many take-back events don’t accept asthma inhalers. Inhalers can be dangerous if punctured or thrown into a fire or incinerator. For this reason, the FDA recommends following the instructions on the labeling of inhaler products. Check with your local trash and recycling facility about how to dispose of inhalers.

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