Deliberate Disposal: How to Discard of Old or Unwanted Medications

April 2019

When you open your medicine cabinet, it is likely that you have a bottle of medication that you no longer use—or that is long past its expiration date. While it may be tempting just to close the cabinet and leave the medication there, it’s important to appropriately dispose of unwanted, unused or expired drugs. Why is proper disposal so critical? Because it removes the possibility of others accidentally or deliberately misusing the medication.

When it’s time to do your next medicine cabinet cleanup, here are two of the best ways to dispose of unwanted medication:

At home. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that many drugs can be disposed of with your everyday garbage or even flushed down the toilet. Check the medication’s packaging to see if there are any specific instructions regarding disposal. To protect your privacy, the FDA recommends blacking out all personal information that may be on any drug packaging. When possible, mix the medication with coffee grounds, cat litter or other unappealing trash to help deter accidental or deliberate use.

Outside the home. Your local pharmacy will often take most over-the-counter and prescription medications, except for controlled substances such as opioids and stimulants. For controlled substances, check out an online list of a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) registered collection site, take advantage of a community Drug Take Back event, or ask your local pharmacy or police department for an appropriate drop-off location. If you have any questions about appropriate disposal for specific drugs, talk to your local Good Neighbor Pharmacy pharmacist. They can always help point you in the right direction.

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