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July 12, 2013

Medication Management: Learn How To Dispose Of Unneeded Medications

Prescription medications can help us get well when we’'re sick and, as we get older, they can help manage chronic illnesses. However, prescription medications are intended to be used in a specific way for a specific period of time, as instructed by a doctor. Once a medication is no longer needed or when it expires, it’'s time to properly dispose of it.

Letting old medications pile up in your medicine cabinet can be dangerous for you and your loved ones. You may take them by mistake or inadvertently make them available to someone who suffers from prescription drug addiction.

So how do you properly dispose of unneeded prescription medicines? Most prescriptions have disposal instructions on the bottle or in the patient information. It’s important to follow those instructions. Don’t flush unused medications down the toilet unless you’re directly told to do so. Some medications can be harmful to the environment if they’'re improperly thrown or flushed away.

The U.S. Food and Drug administration makes the following recommendations for medication disposal:

  • If the bottle instructions tell you to throw the medication away with your household trash (or if you have no instructions), prepare the medication for disposal by removing it from its original container. Place it in a sealable bag or container that won’t leak in your trash. Mix food scraps or coffee grounds with the medication before you seal the container to deter anyone from trying to retrieve the pills from the trash and use them.
  • Scratch out your name or any identifying information on the empty medicine bottles before you throw them away. This will protect your identity and your privacy.

The safest solution for disposing of unneeded prescription medicines are community “Take Back” programs. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency hosts these national drug disposal days twice yearly, and many local community organizations have other routine drug collection days. These programs take the guesswork out of drug disposal. Simply remove or cross out labels on any unwanted prescriptions and take them to a designated drop-off site. You can find drop-off locations here or check with your local police agency.

Want to learn more about managing your prescription drugs? Check out this free guide for better medication management!

Tips for Better Medication Management photo credit: ep_jhu


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