It is a common question many people find themselves asking: What am I supposed to do with my old or expired medications? Do you just toss them in the garbage? Do you flush them down the toilet? It can actually seem quite confusing. Keep reading to learn about the proper methods of drug disposal.
When you’re ready to throw away unwanted or expired medication that is in pill or tablet form, the FDA says most are safe to toss in the garbage. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of just placing medication in the garbage for a person or animal to find by accident, try mixing in some inedible items with the pills in the bottle. You can use coffee grounds, for example, to deter small children or dogs if the bottle is discovered in the trash. You should always remember to remove the medication label before throwing the bottle out, as it has your personal health information printed on it.
When discarding liquid medication, keep it in the original container. As always, remember to remove label from the bottle. To deter other people or animals from ingesting the liquid, try adding a healthy dose of salt, flour or hot powdered spice (like chili power) to the liquid. Add enough to make a semi-thick mixture, discouraging anyone from eating it. The liquid is not safe to discard in the trash!
While it may be tempting to just pour your medication down the toilet and flush away, many medications can cause serious water pollution that water-treatment facilities simply cannot handle. The FDA keeps a current list of drugs that are acceptable to flush down the toilet. You can find that list here.
Drugs that are used to treat cancers are extremely toxic. They are dangerous when handled and should never be taken by anyone who does not have a current prescription. When you are ready to throw away chemotherapy drugs, it is best to ask your doctor or pharmacist how you should safely dispose of them.
Many areas around the country also participate in drug take-back programs. These events allow community members to bring their unused medications to a specific location for proper disposal. Try calling your local sanitation department or recycling center to ask about community disposal programs. The Drug Enforcement Administration also sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Days throughout the United States.