How to Dispose Unused Medicine

There are bottles of expired or leftover medicine cluttering up your cabinet, and you want to get rid of them, but you don���t know whether to flush the pills down the toilet or simply toss them in the waste basket. The same medicine that helped you with your aliment may have the reverse effect on wildlife, pets or people. Avoid harm to others by handling this kind of spring cleaning on a case-by-case basis. Take precautions and find the best way to get rid of each medication. Some medication comes with disposal instructions on the label, but not all. Here are ways to safely dispose of unused over-the-counter and prescription medicines:

Take-back programs
The FDA endorses drug take-back programs, which make sure that the drugs are disposed of properly. Check with your local government or trash and recycling service to see if there are take-back programs in your area. The Drug Enforcement Administration sponsors National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days to make turning over unused or expired medicine easier and more convenient. Check out for designated dates and take-back sites.

Dispose in the trash can

If you cannot get find a take-back program, it is okay to throw most — but not all — medicine in your household trash. Take the medicine out of its original container. Mix the medicine with something like kitty litter or coffee grinds, which should deter children and pets from picking out the pills and disguise them in case someone goes through your trash. Do not crush tablets or capsules. Place this unappealing mixture in a sealed plastic bag or other container that will prevent leaking and then throw that away.

Flush it away
The FDA keeps an up-to-date list of medications that it recommends flushing to insure their immediate removal from the household. This includes powerful narcotic pain relievers and other controlled substances to reduce the chances of illegal abuse or accidental overdose. Do not flush medicine or pour it down the drain unless specifically instructed to do so.

General safety rules
Before getting rid of any containers, black out all identifying information. Make it illegible to protect your identity and health information. Do not share medicine. No one should take anything unless it is specifically prescribed to them. Consult your pharmacist if you are unsure of how to get rid of your medicine.