Tips for Safe Disposal of Prescriptions Drugs

February 2019

Prescription drugs play an important role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when they are no longer needed it is important to dispose of them promptly and properly to help reduce the danger of accidental exposure or intentional misuse. Below, we list some options and special instructions for you to consider when disposing of expired, unwanted, or unused medicines.

Transfer Unused Medicine to Authorized Collectors for Disposal

Medicine take-back programs are a good way to safely dispose of most types of unneeded medicines. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal of prescription drugs. Local law enforcement agencies may also sponsor medicine take-back programs in your community. Likewise, consumers can contact their local waste management authorities to learn about medication disposal options and guidelines for their areas.

Another option for disposing of unneeded medicines is to transfer unused medicines to collectors registered with the DEA. DEA-authorized collectors safely and securely collect and dispose of pharmaceuticals containing controlled substances and other medicines. In your community, authorized collection sites may be retail pharmacies, hospital or clinic pharmacies, and law enforcement locations. Some authorized collection sites may also offer mail-back programs or collection receptacles, sometimes called “drop-boxes,” to assist consumers in safely disposing of their unused medicines.

Visit the DEA’s website for more information about drug disposal and National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events, or to locate a DEA-authorized collector in your area.

Disposal in Household Trash

If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, and there are no specific disposal instructions on the drug label, you can also follow the steps outlined below to dispose of most medicines in the household trash.


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