How to Dispose of Unused or Expired Medications

Pharmacy TechnicianNo Comments

It’s important to properly dispose of your medications or other drugs. There are several medicines that are harmful if taken by someone other than who the drug was prescribed. This is because that specific medicine is prescribed due to the person’s specific symptoms and medical history.

If someone has access to your prescription medicine and takes it, they can experience anything from rashes to respiratory issues to even death. The FDA shared an article on how to discard your prescriptions the right way, and we wanted to pass this information onto you.

Always remember one thing; if you are ever in doubt, go talk to your pharmacist.

Disposing of Your Medications
    • Most prescriptions have instructions on how to dispose of them on the label or with your patient information. There are many drugs you can flush down the sink or toilet, but do not do this unless the directions specifically tell you to.
    • If you live in a community that has a drug take-back program, take advantage of this. These programs are one of the safest ways to discard your unused medications. Simply call your city or county trash and recycling services to see if there is a take-back program located in your area.
    • If there are no directions on your prescriptions, there are a few steps you can take before throwing the drugs in the trash:
        1) Remove the drugs from the original contents and mix them with unwanted substances such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. This both disguises the drugs and makes them unattractive to animals or children. This method also makes the drugs unrecognizable to people who deliberately dig through trash to find discarded prescriptions.
        2) Place the mixture and drugs in a sealable bag or empty can to prevent them from leaking or breaking through the garbage bag.
    • Scratch the labels off of your prescription containers. If people don’t know what the drug is or what it does, chances are they won’t want to ingest it. This also protects you and your family’s identity and personal health information.

Other Notes Regarding Prescriptions
There have been concerns about the disposal of inhaler products. Inhalers traditionally contained chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, which are known to damage the ozone. CFCs are no longer used in inhalers and have been replaced with more eco-friendly propellants.

The FDA and EPA take environmental concerns very seriously, especially the concerns that flushing certain medicines leave trace levels of drug residues on surface water such as lakes, rivers, and some drinking water. The belief comes from the fact that some drugs aren’t completely absorbed or metabolized by the body and can pass through waste, according to Raanan Bloom, PhD. Bloom continues to say that there shouldn’t be any concern with flushing many drugs, since there is no indication of environmental effects.

Follow these steps to ensure your prescription drugs—and your medical information—don’t end up in the wrong hands; and, like we said before, if you don’t know what to do, talk to a pharmacist.


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