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What is the Safest Way to Get Rid of Unused and Expired Medicine?


It’s the time of year when many people like to clean and organize their homes.  This often involves throwing out unwanted items, including prescription medications.

It is important to dispose of unused and expired medicines safely to help avoid accidental exposures and to prevent teen drug abuse. This is key, as drug overdoses are on the rise. So if you’re planning to clean out your medicine cabinet this season, review the below options for disposing your drugs safely. Different medications may need different disposal procedures.

4 Ways to Dispose of Unused and Expired Medications:

1. Drug Take-Back Events

The DEA hosts national drug take-back days a couple of times a year. The next one will happen later this year. You can bring in medications that you no longer need to these locations for proper disposal.  Check the take-back website for more information.  

2. DEA Authorized Collection Sites

If you’d rather not wait for a take-back day, the DEA has authorized collection sites where you can drop off your unwanted medications. They could be in retail pharmacies, hospitals, clinics or law enforcement locations. Some of these sites also offer mail-back programs or collection receptacles (drop boxes).

3. FDA Flush List

Certain medications are approved for flushing. This is only recommended for specific drugs that primarily include strong pain medications. These medications should not be placed in a trash can because there is a potential risk of serious harm if someone accidentally swallows them.  Here is a list of medications that are on the DEA flush list.

4. Household Trash

If you do not have a drug take back option and you have medications that are not on the DEA flush list, you may dispose of the medications in the household trash.  However, it is recommended to remove your unwanted medications from their original containers, mix them with an undesirable substance such as kitty litter or coffee grounds and put them in a sealed plastic container or bag. The mixture can be put in the trash for pick up. Be sure to remove any personal identifying information before throwing away the empty prescription bottles.

Together, we can keep our homes and communities safer by disposing of unused medications properly. If you have any questions, please call the Drug and Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.

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