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Disposing of Prescription Drugs

Disposing of Prescription Drugs
Expired and unused prescription drugs should be disposed of safely. This is a guide about disposing of prescription drugs.


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By 4 found this helpful
October 8, 2010

I got this tip from Hospice. Sometimes we all have expired medications, prescription change medications or left over medications from pass away loved ones. This nurse told me to dispose of them by adding them to coffee grounds or soiled diapers. This stops people who go through trash cans from getting them or contaminated by them. This is vital when those medications are narcotics. He said that putting them down the toilet was not the way to dispose of them.


By Virginia G from Porterville, CA

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October 8, 20100 found this helpful

I don't know about the US, or other countries, but here in Finland, and in the UK, the best way to get rid of old prescription medication is to take it back to a chemist/apteeki.

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October 10, 20100 found this helpful

Working in the medical field we have to get rid of a lot of unwanted narcotics. So many people flush them down the toilet which ends up in our streams and contaminates our water supply. People just cannot get it through their heads this makes our water undrinkable and that sooner or later we won't have any water that isn't heavily polluted. This is really a sore subject for me and I am so glad you were properly directed to dispose of your medicine in a way that it was not consumed by someone or that would hurt our environment.



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October 10, 20100 found this helpful

In my area, there are certain days that expired and unused medications will be collected to be disposed of properly. This Sat. Oct. 16, my town is having a disposal day. If you flush them or even dispose of them in the garbage, it eventually will contaminate the water and ground. You can always check your local town officials to see if they participate in this type of disposal.

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October 10, 20100 found this helpful

In Canada, shoppers drug mart takes left over medications for incineration. Do not put them in the garbage.

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June 22, 20110 found this helpful

Hospice nurse took all drugs from deceased cancer person and mixed them in a ziplock bag filled with a cup of pure bleach.

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April 11, 20140 found this helpful

That is a great idea. We have "drug drop" containers in our courthouse and the local jail. No questions asked, prescription and otc meds are accepted. You just walk up, open the box, and drop the meds inside. It looks somewhat like the big blue boxes for depositing mail.

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November 5, 20140 found this helpful

Do NOT put them in the trash. They will go to the landfill and birds and other animals have access to them until they are buried. Once they are buried, they work their way into the water table and eventually into our drinking water. They need to go back to the pharmacy or your local law enforcement office can dispose of them. Normally they are burned in a special incinerator for this purpose. I am a safety and health specialist, and have had classes on this very topic in the past.

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August 5, 20094 found this helpful

Until recently I didn't have to worry about this question because I hadn't had to take anything except for vitamins most of my life. In the past four months, I now have a few different medications that are not working for me or had a bad reaction to so did some searching about what to do with them.

To keep our waterways and public drinking water safe, to keep medications out of the wrong hands and to ensure your general identity and medical identity are safe here is the FDA link regarding how to properly dispose of stale dated or unused over the counter and prescription medications:

By Deeli from Richland, WA

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August 13, 20091 found this helpful

You can always take any unused meds back to the pharmacy where you purchased them (in original bottles, please). The pharmacy has a specific area where they place these meds for disposal. Rather than bagging, crushing, or dumping meds this is the easiest and safest way to have them properly disposed of.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
August 6, 20090 found this helpful

Thanks for sharing!

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August 7, 20090 found this helpful

Thanks for the link to the FDA site. I now have something to back up what I have been telling people. I put any leftover meds into saved ziploc bags which are clearly marked as having contained raw poultry, I do not clean them beforehand. I also smash whatever meds I put in there if they don't dissolve with whatever juices are in the bag. Then I place these in my garbage. I feel good that I am then not contaminating the environment.

Muchas Gracias!

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August 9, 20090 found this helpful

You can also donate those meds, still in their pharmacy bottles, to a free clinic. (Just black out YOUR name.) My church runs one with MDs, RNs, Social Workers, etc. A few recent pills from you and a few from someone else will make a medically indigent person well.

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By 5 found this helpful
April 27, 2012

If you have any unused prescription drugs around the house you can dispose of them safely on Saturday, April 27th, 2013 at one of the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events. Follow this link to find a collection box near you.

Even if you miss the day the link has information about where you can take old medication any day of the year.

Experts don't recommend flushing prescription drugs down the toilet or disposing of them in your trash since they dissolve and can harm wildlife. However, it is very important to get old prescription drugs out of your house.

Many drugs pose a danger to children so removing them once they are unneeded can help make your home safer. In addition, expired drugs can lose their efficacy, so you're better off getting a new prescription rather than holding onto an old one for years just in case.

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March 2, 20130 found this helpful

Hi - I am very concerned about disposal of prescription drugs as many times I get prescription and cannot take so there are a lot pills/capsules left.

The web site you have a link to is very good but they also say it is okay to flush meds (bottom of the page links on how to dispose...) and other suggestions of course.

My local Walgreens and CVS at one time had a free program but had to stop because of "theft" so now they sell a container that you can use but they are expensive (at least to me) so I wait until one of them have a "free" day (similar to this one shown) but that just means the drugs are in my house for several months.

Some one told me that if Hospice cares for someone in their home, they will flush all meds when the person dies. Of course, a lot of this medication may be morphine and should be disposed of as soon as possible. But, it still should be a concern for everyone.

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March 2, 20130 found this helpful

Please do not flush drugs. This pollutes our water supply and may some day prevent us from having pure fresh water to drink.



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March 2, 20130 found this helpful

Part of this information is missing. It is now known that flushing medication or disposing down your drain leads the drugs back to your own water source. Municipal utilities have water treatment plants that take what you flush or run down the drain and recycle that water back into use again. Even to come out of your own tap to drink.

Absolutely, what is disposed of improperly does affect the water ways and streams of your local area. In this, the fish, wild life, etc will come back in to your own food chain, if not you, your neighbor.

Take the scripts back to your drug store. They do not have to be a controlled substance for disposal. It can be old vitamins, aspirin, etc. They have ways of disposing it. Also, controlled substances can be dropped off at your local sheriff or police departments for proper disposal.

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March 2, 20130 found this helpful

In our area, there is a local homeless clinic called the Jesus Clinic. You can take all your unused medicines there and they're used for the homeless under a doctors care from the clinic. Check with your local homeless shelters to see if there are clinics in your area that can use unwanted medicines.

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March 4, 20130 found this helpful

You can also check with your doctor, they often give sample meds to patients who do not have a drug plan. And check your local police station, some have 24 hour disposal areas.

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By 1 found this helpful
February 2, 2010

Whether the prescription is for people or pets, most of us can find at least one or two bottles containing unused or outdated medications in our medicine cabinet. When these drugs are not disposed of properly, they can cause pollution in wastewater and end up in our local waterways. Most of these drugs can be safely disposed of in the trash, as long as certain precautions are taken before tossing them out.

Why Worry About it?

In recent year, trace levels of prescription drugs have been found in lakes, rivers, and streams, where they have been found to have adverse affects on fish and other aquatic wildlife. In some cases, community water supplies have tested positive for trace amounts of drug residue. Most drugs are not completely metabolized by our bodies, and the primary way they enter our waterways is through waste water treatment plants. Proper disposal of unused medications can reduce the risk of exposure to these drug residues to both humans and wildlife.

Guidelines for Disposing of Medications at Home

In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) created a set of consumer guidelines for safe disposal of unused medicine. Here's a summary:

If given, follow specific disposal instructions on the label. Drug labels and the patient information that accompanies them often contain information regarding proper disposal. Look here first. Certain medications (e.g. powerful pain relievers/controlled substances) may contain instructions for flushing to reduce the possibility of unintentional use, overdose, or illegal abuse. However, unless the information specifically instructs you to do so, do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet.

Keep unused medications in their original containers. The labels contain important safety information (should the medication be accidentally ingested) and the caps are typically childproof. Cover the patient's name and Rx number with permanent marker (or scrape it off), but leave the information on the contents visible.

Modify unused medicines to discourage consumption.

Seal and conceal. Tape the medication container lid shut with packing or duct tape, and place it in a non-transparent bag or container like an empty sour cream or margarine container. Don't hide medicines in leftover food products because they could be consumed by wildlife scavengers).

Toss the modified unused medicine in your garbage can. Do not place in the recycling bin.

Community Take-Back Programs

Many communities now have drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. To find out if there's a program in your community, call your local waste water treatment facility, trash and recycling service or contact a local pharmacist.

Comment Was this helpful? 1
February 2, 20100 found this helpful

The Earth 911 site has a great index of recycling centers. If you type "drugs" in the find field and your zip code then it will show if there are any take-back programs near your house.

In the Seattle area you can bring drugs to many of the Group Health medical centers.

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February 8, 20100 found this helpful

Help thoses in need of recycling prescription drugs:

In some states they have changed the laws to allow certain leftover drugs to be given to organizations that give them to people with prescriptions that have the need for this drug, but are without money. This is done especially in Cancer & AIDS patients because some of the AIDS drugs cost so much & it's a shame when someone dies to have them go to waste.

I wish this law/program was available when my grandmother died, because we had to throw away perfectly good prescription drugs when we could have given them to someone in desperate need without the funds to purchase them. Thankfully the laws have been changed in a handful of states & hopefully these new laws will soon spread to other states.

Before you toss out any medications, please, call a pharmacists or Google the words "drug repositories" & your state to see if your state has this law so your can help someone in desperate need! New York's law says the drugs must be in their original, sealed package, which sadly means if your had a half bottle of zofran (worth more than $20 per pill), you couldn't donate it. I'm not sure how many of the others states have the same rule. These states also have drug repositories in existence or in the works: Indiana, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Vermont.

More information about drug depository laws:

Ohio: http://pharmacy  itory-060126.htm

Maryland: http://www.dhmh  itory_pg.doc.htm

Illinois: http://www.ilga  nID=51&GA=95

Missouri: http://www.dhss  /DrugRepository/

Georgia: http://wwww.leg  lltext/hb430.htm

NewYork: http://www.asse  s/leg/?bn=A00656

Wisconsin: http://dhs.wi.g  erdrugreposy.htm

Nebraska: http://www.hhs.  .us/cancerdrugs/

Here's is some more interesting information about recycling & disposing drugs:

http://www.asse  m/recycle_drugs/

---> Frequently asked questions:

http://www.dhss  sitory/FAQs.html

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December 3, 20130 found this helpful

Here the pharmacies take them back for safe disposal. Even if it doesn't get eaten by some unfortunate animal sooner or later water is reused and a lot of the trash goes to landfill which brings it back to you eventually. All sounds pretty horrific to me.

Marg from England.

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January 16, 2013

Our doctor's office has a drop off box for expired medications, which makes getting rid of them very easy. However, we aren't there very often so I collect any that we have in a large plastic container.

meds in container

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By 0 found this helpful
January 9, 2008

It's time to clean out your medicine chest. Be ruthless and discard ANY medicine which is past it's expiration date (adverse drug reactions is the 5th leading cause of DEATH in the USA).

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