How to Discard Expired Medication
Don’t just toss your old drugs. Find out how to get rid of them safely.
Expired pills, liquids, patches and other products you may have used for treating arthritis and related conditions can be dangerous if they get into the wrong hands. Follow this disposal guide to protect your family, pets and the environment from medicine you no longer use.
Follow directions. Check the drug label or patient information that accompanied your prescription and follow any special instructions given. Some can be thrown in your household trash, but others should be discarded securely.
Ask your pharmacist. Many pharmacies provide services that allow you to drop off unused medications or mail them back.
Check with the DEA. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) provides National Prescription Take Back on certain days throughout the country, and some communities hold their own drug take-back days. Your local law enforcement agency may be able to direct you to a drop-off location, or check the DEA website for approved locations and more information.
Know what to flush. Certain unused drugs, including narcotic pain relievers and other controlled substances, are best disposed of quickly — down the toilet. Flushing reduces the risk of overdose, abuse or potentially deadly ingestion by a child or household pet. Check the Food and Drug Administration website for a full list of drugs the FDA recommends flushing, and for more details and information about safe drug disposal.
Call your trash pick-up or recycling program. Your trash collection service or local recycling center can tell you about safe-disposal regulations and guidelines for your area. This is particularly important if you are disposing of inhalers, which can be dangerous if punctured or burned.
Prepare for the trash. If you can’t find a take-back program in your area and the medication isn’t on the flush list, dispose of unused medications with your household trash. Follow these steps:
- Remove any identifying information from the medicine container and dispose of it.
- Remove pills and other medicines from sealed packages, bottles or other containers.
- Put medicines into a sealable plastic bag. (If it’s a pill or capsule, dissolve it in a bit of water first.)
- Add dirty kitty litter or used coffee grounds to the bag before tossing it in the household trash. The granules will absorb any liquid, make it less attractive to pets and small children and less recognizable to people searching your trash for drugs.
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