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How To Safely Dispose of Prescription Drugs

Considerations for safely disposing of medications.

As the first week of this month was Medication Safety Week, I thought it fitting to provide some information on ways to safely de-clutter your medicine cabinet. We're talking about unused, unwanted, or expired over-the-counter and prescription medications.

First and foremost, let me say that when getting rid of the medication packaging, be sure to black out or rip off any identifying information about the patient. You don't want anyone refilling the prescription or having private information on your health history.

Home Disposal

When disposing of medications at home such as pills and capsules that don't have any specific instructions for disposal, it is generally safe to place them in the trash. But don't just dump them in your waste barrel by themselves. First, mix them with something unpalatable such as coffee grounds, sawdust or kitty litter. Then place the mixture in a sealed bag. This method acts as a deterrent from anyone searching through your trash as the meds will be mixed with something gross.

For medications that come in blister packs it's recommended that you securely wrap the pack multiple times in duct tape.

Pharmacy Disposal

The two big pharmacies in my area are CVS and Walgreens. On the CVS website they have a section titled "Safer Communities" as they recognize that 1 in 4 teens have misused or abused prescription drugs. On this webpage there's a search option to type in your city and zip to locate a medication drop box location in your area. When I typed in my location it gave me 4 options within a 5 mile radius.

Walgreens is another pharmacy that is conscientious about safe disposal practices and in many of their stores they have medication disposal kiosks. It looks like a big silver mailbox where you can drop your OTC and prescription medications and patches, vitamins and even pet medications.

Community Disposal

Another community resource I found was disposal kiosks at area police stations. My town has one at their police building that looks like a green mail box. It's made by a company called MedReturn. Their site also has a search option to find a unit near you.

Donating / Reuse

For those questioning reusing and recycling medications, I suggest this article on the National Conference of State Legislatures website which goes through regulations by state.

Additional Resources

Other helpful websites include:

Dispose My Meds

US Food and Drug Administration (includes a full list of meds you can flush)

Everyday Health

US Environmental Protection Agency

Let me know if you know of other ways to safely dispose of medications in your town!

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