How to Dispose of Prescription Medication

How to Dispose of Prescription Medication

How does your medicine cabinet look? Do you have expired medications or medications you no longer use and have no plans on ever using again? How should you dispose of these medications? Knowing how to properly dispose of unused medication will help keep it from accidentally being taken by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed. Is it safe to throw them out in the trash or flush them down the toilet?  Learn about the proper ways to dispose of those medications you’ve got cluttering up your medicine cabinets!

BEST Option: Prescription Drop Offs
Some law enforcement offices and pharmacies are collecting unwanted medicines from residents until a permanent statewide program is in place. To find a temporary drop-off program near you, check our our article on National Drug Take-back Days near you. You can also call local government household trash and recycling services in your area to ask if there are any drop offs near you.


Bad idea #1: Throwing medicine in the trash is a bad idea. Even mixing medicines with coffee grounds or kitty litter before throwing them in the trash will NOT prevent drug theft.

“Unused prescription drugs thrown in the trash can be retrieved and abused or illegally sold…. Take back programs are the best way to dispose of old drugs.”  – DEA, April 30

Furthermore, trashing old medicine won’t keep children and pets safe from accidentally finding it and ingesting it, as some may assume. And, medicines that make it to landfills can be toxic to people and wildlife. Even medicine that decompose and emit low-levels of drugs can be harmful.

Bad idea #2: Crushing medicine before throwing in the trash is a bad idea.Trying to crush pills can expose you to the drug through contact (via skin or inhaling).

Bad idea #3:  Flushing medicine down the toilet or down the drain.  Putting dangerous drugs into our sewer systems can pollute our waters. This can harm fish and other aquatic life, contaminating our food and water supplies. Most medicine are not removed by wastewater treatment plants or septic systems.

Scientists have found medicines in surface, ground and marine waters as well as soils and sediments in the Pacific Northwest.  Even at very low levels, medicines in the environment hurt aquatic life.

Even non-prescription “over the counter” medicine must be disposed of carefully. While the threat of drug addicts stealing it from your trash aren’t there, if it’s expired or otherwise harmful you don’t want it to get into the wrong hands. And, it’s not something that we need seeping into our waters or poisoning our wildlife!

Source: Take Back Your Meds