Prescription medications can help us get well when we are sick and can help manage chronic illnesses, but most are intended to be used in a specific way for a specific period of time. Once a medication is no longer needed or when it expires, it’s time to dispose of it properly.
Letting old medicines pile up in your cabinet can be dangerous for you and your loved ones: You could take them by mistake or inadvertently make them available to someone who shouldn’t take them. But when it comes to disposing of unneeded prescriptions, it can be more complicated than just throwing them out with the trash.
So how do you properly dispose of unneeded medications? Here are a few tips.
Don’t Flush Them
If you can’t throw them out, you might think the next best option would be to flush any unwanted medicines down the toilet. But sometimes doing so can be harmful to the environment. Here is a list of medications that are safe to flush.
Look for Instructions on the Bottle
Most prescriptions have disposal instructions on the bottle or in the patient information sheet you receive with the medicine.
Use a Take Back Program
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 community organizations have other routine drug collection days. Just remove or cross out labels on any unwanted prescriptions and take them to a designated drop-off site. You can find drop-off locations by checking with your local police agency.
Look for Recommendations
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), remove the medication from its original container, and place it in a sealable bag or container that will not 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.
- Scratch out your name or any identifying information on the empty medicine bottles before you throw them away. This will protect your identity and privacy.
It’s important to note most over the counter medicines can be disposed of in the trash. By following the above steps, you can ensure you’re safely disposing of any unwanted medications. Remember, if you have questions about how to properly dispose of a prescription, talk to your pharmacist.