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 and can pose danger to pets or children who may accidentally ingest your medications. Unneeded medicine may also cause confusion for people who are already taking a large number of medications.

In these situations, there is a solution — safe drug disposal. 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. If you’re looking for a permanent drug disposal box in your area, you can use our Drug Disposal Locator Tool to find one that is convenient to you.

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Looking for a Permanent Drug Disposal Site?

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!

For information on setting up permanent drug disposal boxes at pharmacies, long-term care facilities, or law enforcement locations see to the Pharmacist Resources section.

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 to 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. A small number of medications need to be flushed down the toilet if a disposal box is not immediately available. These drugs include fentanyl, hydrocodone, and methadone, among others. The list of drugs that should be flushed when take-back options are unavailable is available on the FDA website.
  3. If there are no take-back programs available in your area and there are no specific instructions, such as flushing, take your medication out of the container and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as dirt, 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, place the used sharps immediately in a sharps disposal container, which are often available through pharmacies, medical supply companies, etc. If a disposal site is not available, you may use a heavy-duty household container, such as a laundry detergent container to dispose of the sharps.

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)