How to Safely Dispose of Old Prescriptions

We’ve all been there. Cleaning out bathroom cabinets or drawers and stumbling upon old prescription medications that were unfinished or forgotten. What’s a spring cleaner to do? One obvious choice is to shove them further back into the drawer and deal with them later, yet there are answers for how to deal with them now, in a safe and environmentally-friendly way.

If your first inclination is to flush the medication down the toilet, let’s stop right there. Homeowners with septic tanks may be responsible for medications leaching into the surrounding soil and groundwater. Those within a network of water treatment plants are in a similar dilemma, as the plants aren’t equipped to filter out medicines from water, making it possible that the chemicals can find their way into the drinking water supply. The FDA does recommend the immediate flushing of certain unused medications that can prove fatal with a single dose—for the reason of keeping it out of the hands of at risk children and adults—yet, that very fact is a bit unsettling and people should exercise their best judgment in how to deal with those drugs.

The best way to manage unwanted or unused medications—prescription or over-the-counter—is to look up local Drug Take-Back events near your city. There is one coming up on September 26th, according to the DEA website. This ensures that medications will be out of reach from both curious children and community drug-seekers who may root through one’s trash to score. For businesses who regularly deal with controlled substances, there is an option to connect with a DEA-approved collector to properly dispose of these potentially dangerous medications.

The next-best option for getting rid of old medications is to secure them for trash pick-up. The EPA recommends removing the medications from their original containers (and scratching identifying information off of the label) and mixing them with “undesired” materials—think dirty cat litter or stinky coffee grounds—in another container, sealed well. Blister packs of medication should be wrapped in several layers of duct tape. Once the medications are properly contained, they should be taken straight out to the trash can, as to not be discovered by curious family members.

Since any of the measures listed above for at-home disposal can easily be thwarted, whether by nature, curiosity, or criminal behavior, looking into Drug Take-Back events is the clear first choice to ensure the safety of one’s family, the community and the environment.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah H3 years ago

We took a bunch to the local take back last week. We called the drug store, they wouldn't take them back.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta K3 years ago


Jim Ven
Jim V3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Adrienne L.
Adrienne L3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Lady Kaira
None None3 years ago


Elena Poensgen
Elena P3 years ago

Thank you

Pablo B.
.3 years ago

thank you good info and sharing

STEFANIE R3 years ago


M. M.
M. M3 years ago

I always give old or expired prescription in the drugstore for proper disposal.