How Should I Dispose of Old, Expired or Unused Medications?

Elizabeth Louthan

Goodykoontz Drug Store

Bluefield, West Virginia

April 1, 2019

Expired or unused medications should be disposed of as soon as possible to prevent harm to yourself or other individuals, as well as to reduce the risk of drug diversion.

Outside the home. National prescription drug take-back programs sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration are the best way to dispose of unwanted or unneeded medication. Some communities also host annual medication take-back days in partnership with local law enforcement or have permanent programs in place, such as drop boxes for old medication at local businesses.

At home. Another option for safe medication disposal is placing it in the household trash. However, to prevent diversion, the medication should be placed in a sealed container such as a resealable sandwich bag along with an undesirable substance like coffee grounds, cat litter or dirt. Enough liquid should then be added to create a paste before disposal. There is also a small list of medications that can be disposed of by flushing down the toilet or sink, but some medications like Suboxone film strips and fentanyl patches pose a safety risk because minimal exposure can be extremely dangerous. The full list of medications included in this category can be found on the Food and Drug Administration’s website at

If you have questions about safely disposing of a specific medication, your local Good Neighbor Pharmacy pharmacist is always available to help.

The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent that of AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation. The content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat any health condition and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with your health professional.

More Ask a Pharmacist Articles