How to Properly Dispose of Meds

The other day I was cleaning out a cupboard and found a bottle of some medicine that I had been prescribed several years ago. The bottle was nearly full.

Unused Medicine

My first instinct was to just toss them in the garbage, but then I got to thinking about potential health and environmental issues, so I looked up “how to properly dispose of prescription meds.”

And found this page on the FDA website, which included this helpful little slideshow:

Here’s a quick excerpt of how to properly dispose of unused medicine:

  • Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.
  • Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service (see blue pages in phone book) to see if a take-back program is available in your community. The Drug Enforcement Administration, working with state and local law enforcement agencies, is sponsoring National Prescription Drug Take Back Days throughout the United States.
  • If no instructions are given on the drug label and no take-back program is available in your area, throw the drugs in the household trash, but first:
    • Take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.
    • Put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.

The medicine I had didn’t have any specific instructions on disposal, but I did learn that our town DOES participate in a community drug take-back program. I found the particulars by searching for my town name plus the words “drug take back.”

I found that I missed our local take-back by about a week. However, a helpful commenter posted the following:

Please also keep in mind, Newtown’s drug lock box is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! Please use it and keep your home safe and drug free! Don’t dispose of them by flushing, it is harmful to the environment!

Now, that’s good news! That means that we can bring any unused meds to the lock-box to safely dispose of them. Good for our family, good for the environment. Before you dispose of any unused medicines, check out your community’s drug take-back programs and dispose of medicines safely; for your family and for the environment.


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