Medication safety

Have you ever wondered how you should get rid of unused over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs that are just sitting in your medicine cabinet? You can throw most drugs in a household trash can, but there are a few exceptions. For some select drugs, you may have to flush them down the toilet, or bring them to a free community take-back program that ensures safe disposal.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created a set of guidelines you can use to properly dispose of unused prescription drugs. 

Guidelines for proper disposal:

  • Scratch out all identifying information on the drug label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.  
  • Follow disposal instructions on the drug label or the patient information that came with your prescription.
  • Use a community drug take-back program that allows you to bring the unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or town’s trash and recycling service to see if a take-back program is available in your community. 
  • If no instructions are given on the drug label and patient information, and no take-back program is available in your area, throw them in the household trash, but first:
    • Take the drugs out of their original container and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. The drugs will be less appealing to children or pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.  
    • Put the drugs in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent them from leaking or falling out of a garbage bag. 

If you have any questions or would like more information on how to properly dispose of prescription drugs, please visit your local pharmacy, or call the FDA at 888.46.-6332, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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