Gone. For Good.
Nearly every home in the United States has a place where medicines are safely kept up and away and out of the reach of children. However, these storage places often have something in common—they are full of expired, unused, and unwanted medicine. It can be easy to forget about your prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines when you no longer need to take them. However, unused and expired medicines risk getting into the wrong hands – whether children accidentally get a hold of them or they are diverted by people looking to abuse these medications.
So, what should you do to safely dispose of them? Here are some tips for proper disposal so that your expired, unused, and unwanted medicines will be gone for good.
In-Home Disposal – Almost all medicines can be safely thrown into your household trash (other than controlled substances, which include opioids). It only takes a few short steps to properly dispose of OTC medicines and prescription medications at home:
- Put into a sealable bag. Food storage bags work well for the purposes of medicine disposal (do not crush tablets or capsules).
- Add something undesirable. Combine the medicine with something completely unappetizing like cat litter, coffee grounds, or dirt and debris from your vacuum cleaner. Someone who is looking to abuse medicine is not likely to dig through something disgusting in your trash. Also, the debris may help hide the pills from sight.
- Seal and toss. Once the bag is completely sealed, toss the bag into the trash can. For prescription medicines, scratch out all your personal information on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity and privacy before throwing away.
Out-of-Home Disposal – Most communities in the U.S. have medication collection and drop-off sites at retail pharmacies, law enforcement offices, solid waste centers, and other community-based locations. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) keeps a Collection Site Locator to help you find drop-off sites in your community.
If you don’t have a disposal program or location in your area, you may be able to take your unused medicines to DEA-registered collectors. You may find these collection sites in local pharmacies, hospitals, or clinics. Additionally, your local police station may also sponsor their own disposal program. Here are some additional resources to help find convenient, local take-back options:
- Allied Against Opioid Abuse Site Locator
- CHPA Educational Foundation
- Cook County Meds Disposal Initiative Site Locator (Illinois)
- DEA Drug Take-Back Day Collection Site Locator
- DEA Year-Round Disposal Site Locator
- MED Project Site Locator (certain counties in California and Washington)
- My Old Meds Project
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