How to Dispose of Old or Expired Medications

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on September 3, 2021.

Whether it's a medicine cabinet, drawer or plastic container, you probably have a place where you store old medications. However, keeping expired or outdated medication on hand can be risky.

Medication disposal reduces the risk of accidental poisoning when kids or pets come across dangerous pills. Getting rid of old meds also ensures you won't take the wrong medication due to a mix-up. Most importantly, disposal keeps these substances out of the hands of those struggling with drug dependence.

When to Get Rid of Medication

When should you dispose of old medication? It's best to get rid of medicine when:

  • It passes its expiration date.
  • You change prescriptions but have medicine left.
  • Your healthcare provider tells you to stop taking a medication.
  • You have over-the-counter medicine you no longer need.

Three Ways to Dispose of Medication

If you're cleaning out your medicine cabinet, here are three ways to get rid of unused or unwanted medication. Whichever method you choose, be sure to remove or scratch out personal information from medication labels or medication packaging to prevent identity theft.

Drug-Take Back Programs

Medicine take-back programs are the best and safest way to dispose of both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. You can find authorized collection sites at pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and law enforcement facilities across the nation.

You can find a collection site near you or learn more about temporary drug collection sites on Drug Take-Back Days in your area.

Throwing Away Medication

If a take-back program is not an option, you may need to dispose of your medication in the trash. Take these steps to ensure this method keeps everyone in your household safe:

  • Mix medication with an unpleasant substance, like coffee grounds, kitty litter or vacuum cleaner refuse.
  • Place the mixture in a sealed container, such as a plastic bag.
  • Throw the contents away in your household trash.

Flush List

Most medicines should not be flushed down the toilet. Certain chemicals in medications can pollute water resources or impact local wildlife.

However, if you don’t have a drug take-back program near you, the FDA recommends flushing certain medications as soon as possible to reduce their potential harm. These meds include often misused drugs and medicine that can cause accidental poisoning or even death if taken inappropriately. Most flush list medications have specific instructions on the label.

You should always use extreme caution when flushing medication. Click here for a list of products on the FDA's flush list.

Do You Struggle With Prescription Pill Addiction?

If someone you know is using old or expired medications, they may be struggling with a prescription pill addiction. Diamond House Detox can help. We offer a safe and private facility where our clients find hope and healing. Contact us online to learn more and explore our programs today.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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