Disposing of Medication:
What are the options?
Many of us don't think twice when it comes to throwing away old, unused, or expired prescription medications. When disposing of medication, certain safety precautions should be taken to avoid harm to others who could come into contact with the discarded medication. Proper medicine disposal will protect you and others in your home from consuming harmful medications, including pets, children, and anyone else who might find medicines in your trash, and can help prevent prescription drug abuse.
At least once a year, you should check the labels and contents of all of your medications. Medications that you are no longer taking, or have a change in color, smell, or texture, should be disposed of properly.
Steps to Proper Disposal
Don't know how to properly dispose of medication? The first step is to contact your local waste management facility for your specific community's regulations. If the facility doesn't have particular policies, read and follow the disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that comes with the medication. If no special instructions are given on the medication label, the FDA suggests the following:
- Take the medication out of its original container and remove, or cross out, personal information from the container label.
- Mix medications with kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds, or another substance that will absorb them and make them undesirable.
- Put the mixture into a sealable plastic bag or bottle with a screw-on lid so no leaking occurs, and place in the trash.
The FDA recommends flushing only if the medication has instructions to do so. Visit the FDA's website for a list of medications that need disposal by flushing, click here.
Drug Take-Back Programs
Another disposal option is community drug take-back programs. These programs allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Contact your city or county government's household trash and recycling service. They can tell you if a take-bake program is available in your community. The Drug Enforcement Administration, working with state and local law enforcement agencies, is sponsoring National Prescription Drug Take Back Days throughout the United States. Visit www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov to find an upcoming Drug Take Back day and location near you.
FDA. “Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know.” Last Updated: 04/28/2014. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm#Overview. Accessed August 6, 2014.