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?

If possible, it is recommended that you bring your drugs to a drug take-back program that ensures safe disposal. If a drug take-back option is not readily available, you can throw most drugs in your household trash, but there are a few exceptions. For some select drugs, you may have to flush them down the toilet.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created a set of guidelines you can use to properly dispose of unused prescription drugs. The FDA has also created a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing when take-back options are not readily available.

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, check the FDA’s list of medications that should be flushed down the toilet.
    • If the drugs are on the FDA flush list, then they should be immediately flushed down the toilet. 
      If the drugs are not on the FDA flush list, then you should throw them in the household trash after doing the following:
      • Take the drugs out of their original container and mix the whole pills (do not crush) with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. This process makes the drugs less appealing to children and 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 the garbage bag
      • Throw the container in the household trash

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 888-463-6332, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.