How to Safely Dispose of Unused Prescription Medication

What do you do with unused medication at your house? If you’re throwing it out with your garbage, you might want to safely dispose of these unused and expired prescriptions.   I always thought throwing them in the trash, flushing them down the toilet, or dumping them in the garbage disposal was perfectly fine. However, after years of doing that I found out that disposing of them in the garbage could result in the medications ending up in the wrong hands, making someone ill or even worse causing life-threating complications. Disposing of medications in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet could cause environmental concerns, such as trace levels of drug residues found in surface water, like rivers and lakes, and in some community drinking water supplies.

Medicine take-back programs are an excellent way to properly and safely dispose of most types of unneeded medicines. Consumers and caregivers should remove expired, unwanted or unused medications from their home as quickly as possible to help reduce the chance that others may accidentally take or intentionally misuse the unneeded medications. Though medications can play an important role in our day-to-day life, it’s very important to safely dispose of them when they’re no longer needed or have expired. Check your labels or patient information that accompanies the medications for specific disposal instructions. Do not flush medications down the sink or toilet unless the disposal instructions specifically instruct you to do so.

If at any point you have questions regarding proper disposal of unused, expired or medications that are no longer needed, check the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) website at www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov for your copy of a printable fact sheet, or call 1-800-882-9539. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also offers a list of medications recommended for disposal by flushing on their website at www.fda/gov. Both also provide information on DEA-authorized collectors who safely and securely collect and dispose of pharmaceutical-controlled substances and other medications. In your community, authorized collection sites may be retail pharmacies, hospital or clinic pharmacies and local law enforcement agencies. In closing, before you dispose of medications you no longer need, take the time to find the proper way to do so.

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