How Do I Dispose of Expired Prescriptions?

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  • Written By: Alicia Sparks
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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The proper way to dispose of your expired prescriptions depends on the kind of old medicine you have, where you live and the laws that govern drug matters, and what resources are available to you. Ideally, you can take part in a community drug take-back program, where the final disposal of expired medicine is taken care of for you. When this option is not available, sometimes flushing the medicine, when allowed, or properly disguising it in your trash are your only options.

Perhaps the safest way to dispose of your expired prescriptions is to drop them off at a community drug take-back program or a similar event. For example, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) monitors such drug take-back programs in various communities throughout the nation. People are invited to relinquish their expired medicine, old medicine they do not take anymore, and leftover medicine from previous medical prescriptions. The DEA then properly disposes of the expired prescriptions. To find out about such events or programs in your area, you can contact your local or regional government agency that manages either drugs and other substances or trash and recycling.


When drug take-back programs are not available, you might be able to flush your expired prescriptions down a toilet or a sink drain. Be sure to read the medication’s label, as some labels strictly prohibit flushing the contained medical prescription. Sometimes, the agency that manages drug concerns in a particular area can provide information about which medical prescriptions can be flushed. America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one such agency that lets consumers know which medicines are safe for flushing. Keep in mind that even when it is allowed, flushing expired prescriptions can be hazardous to the environment and therefore might be an undesirable option.

If you have no other options, or prefer not to flush your expired prescriptions, you may toss them in the trash after taking a few steps. First, take the old medicine out of its original container and place it in a sealable bag or disposable container with a lid. Next, mix in some uninviting material, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds. Then, thoroughly mark out or scratch off your identifying information from the container, or cover it with heavy-duty tape. Finally, place the medicine container with the mixture containing the expired prescriptions, seal the bag or lid, and place it in the trash.


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