Medicines help us treat many diseases and health problems, but when they expire or are no longer needed it’s important to get rid of them in the correct way. Getting rid of medicine that you don’t need is especially important if you have children or pets in your home. There are several ways to dispose of unwanted or expired medicine. The product you want to dispose of, and how quickly you want to get rid of it, can help you determine which disposal method is best for you.
First Choice: Community Take-back Days
Medicine take-back programs are the best way to get rid of expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from your home and reduce the chance that others may take the medicine. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sponsors two take-back events each year. Contact your local police department or pharmacies to find out if they host year-round medicine disposal drop boxes.
Second Choice: In-Home Disposal
While using a take-back program is best, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash.
Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, remember to scratch out all information on any prescription labels to make them unreadable.
- Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with something people or pets are unlikely to try to eat, like kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
- Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
- Throw the container in your household trash.
Certain Medicines: Flush Down the Toilet
Some medicines, that may be especially dangerous if accidentally ingested by children or pets, have specific disposal instructions that say they should be flushed down the sink or toilet as soon as they are no longer needed, and when they cannot be disposed of through a medicine take-back program.
Click here for a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing provided by the FDA (Updated April 2018). Flushing these medicines will get rid of them right away and help keep your family and pets safe.
Household Disposal of OTC Medicines Infographic
FDA Drug Disposal Options Infographic
DEA Nationwide Prescription Drug Take-Back Initiative
Needles and Other Sharps (Safe Disposal Outside of Health Care Settings)
Expiration Dates – Questions and Answers