Disposing of Medications the Safe Way

Many homes end up with unwanted or expired prescription and over-the-counter medications. Old prescriptions left in medicine cabinets or elsewhere in the home can often be an easy source for those who would like to abuse prescription medications.

Unneeded medicine may also cause confusion for people who are already taking a large number of medications. Furthermore, some medications, including fentanyl patches, should be properly disposed of by flushing to prevent accidental ingestion by children and pets.

Many states have year-round/permanent drug take-back programs, utilizing on-site drug disposal boxes or mail-back programs, or local medication take-back events that are held at temporary sites at different times through the year. The take-back programs are often facilitated by police departments, municipal buildings, or pharmacies.

Looking for a Drug Disposal Site?

Find A Drug Disposal Location Near You:

Drug Disposal Locator Tool »

Want to Add a Disposal Site to Our List?

Please fill in all of the columns on this pre-formatted Excel spreadsheet and send it as an attachment to info@AWARErx.pharmacy. Thank you for your efforts to prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse!

Disposing of Medication At Home

If a drug disposal site or mail-back program is not available in your area, it is best to follow Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for the safe disposal of unused or unwanted medications at home; including when to flush medication and patches. We recommend printing this disposal flyer to keep on hand for reference or spread the word in your community.

At a Glance

  1. Check the label on your medication and follow any instructions for safe disposal provided.
  2. Do not flush the drugs down the toilet unless the label says to flush them. The list of drugs that should be flushed is available on the FDA website.
  3. If there are no disposal instructions on the label, check with your local government to find out if specific disposal methods are required by law. If not, take them out of the container and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or cat litter. Next, seal the mixture in a sealable bag, can, or container and place the container in the garbage.
  4. If disposing of sharps, please refer to the disposal flyer above or contact your state board of pharmacy.

Additional Disposal Regulation Resources:

  • Your state board of pharmacy – State laws for medication disposal should be followed if they are stricter than federal guidelines.
  • Your pharmacist
  • Your local waste management authority – as encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Setting Up a Permanent Drug Disposal Site

A new drug disposal site is a great benefit to your community and an important step in preventing prescription drug misuse and abuse.

The most effective disposal site is one that can accept controlled substances (which have the highest potential for abuse) in addition to general prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements.

As of October 9, 2014, non-law enforcement drug disposal site locations (like pharmacies) can accept controlled substances for disposal if appropriately registered with DEA. To learn more, click here.

Take a look at instructions for setting up a permanent drug disposal site in a:

Pharmacies

  1. If your pharmacy is not already registered with DEA to collect prescription medication for disposal, you would need to do so. Please note: regulations vary from state to state, so you will need to contact your state board of pharmacy as well.
  1. After the DEA registration process is complete, you can look into purchasing a drug drop box through www.RxDrugDrops.com. This company sells drug drop boxes to non-law enforcement disposal sites.

Destruction of Collected Prescription Drugs

Finding a reverse distribution service that will properly destroy the prescription drugs that you have collected for disposal is essential. You will need to make sure you are in compliance with all applicable federal, state, tribal, and local laws. The company or organization you obtain your disposal box from may be able to refer you to some reverse distribution services or waste collection companies, otherwise, your local DEA diversion office or your state board of pharmacy may be able to tell you the best way to find a reputable service or company.

Long-Term Care Facilities

  1. Take a look at specifications for medication disposal at long-term care facilities in the following link to see if your facility qualifies to open a disposal site: www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/fact_sheets/disposal_ltcf.pdf#search=disposal
  1. If your facility qualifies, you will need to register with the DEA to open a disposal site by clicking here: www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/webforms/jsp/regapps/common/newAppLogin.jsp
  1. After the registration process is complete, you can look into purchasing a drug disposal box through www.RxDrugDrops.com. This company sells drug disposal boxes to non-law enforcement disposal sites.

Destruction of Collected Prescription Drugs

Finding a reverse distribution service that will properly destroy the prescription drugs that you have collected for disposal is essential. You will need to make sure you are in compliance with all applicable Federal, State, tribal and local laws. The company or organization you obtain your disposal box from may be able to refer you to some reverse distribution services or waste collection companies, otherwise, your local DEA Diversion office or your state board of pharmacy may be able to tell you the best way to find a reputable service or company.

Law Enforcement Locations

1.   Register the location with the DEA.

2.   After you have completed your registration with the DEA to collect medication for disposal, you can contact one of the companies/organizations listed below to purchase a disposal box for your police station.

Additional Source for Information on Prescription Drug Disposal

Your state board of pharmacy is also a good source of information for state rules and regulations on disposal that must be adhered to.

Destruction of Collected Prescription Drugs

Finding a reverse distribution service that will properly destroy the prescription drugs that you have collected for disposal is essential. You will need to make sure you are in compliance with all applicable Federal, State, tribal and local laws. The company or organization you obtain your disposal box from may be able to refer you to some reverse distribution services or waste collection companies, otherwise, your local DEA Diversion office or your state board of pharmacy may be able to tell you the best way to find a reputable service or company.