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How to Dispose of Medications Safely

checking medicine cabinet photo

There may be times when you have expired or unwanted medication in your home. It could be that your doctor has changed your prescription or eliminated a medication in your treatment plan.

Whatever the reason, it is important to remove any unused medication from your household as soon as possible. Doing this will reduce the chance that anyone will misuse or accidentally take your Rx. You may be wondering, “Where can I dispose of unused or expired medicine?” There are several options, depending on what kind of medication it is.

Medication Take Back Programs

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts medication take back programs at various times throughout the year. During these times, you can drop your medication off at designated collection sites. The DEA will then properly dispose of the unused medicine for you. These programs take any type of prescription drugs.

For more information on medication disposal in areas near you, visit the DEA website (Drug Disposal Information), or search National Prescription Drug Take Back events (National Prescription Drug Take Back Day).

You can also call the DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539.

How to Dispose of Medication at Home

It is usually not ideal to flush medication down a sink or a toilet or simply throw unused medicine in the trash. However, if there are no take-back programs in your area, some medications may be disposed of in this manner.

If you throw unused medication in the trash, make sure you mix it with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, coffee grounds or kitty litter. Do not crush tablets or open capsules before mixing with the substance you choose. Place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag or other sealed container and then throw it away. You can dispose of the bottles separately, but make sure you remove any personal identifiers, such as prescription labels with your name on them, to protect your privacy.

There are only certain medicines that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be flushed down a sink or toilet. For a list of approved medication that can be flushed, visit the FDA’s website.

How to Dispose of Used or Expired EpiPens

EpiPens expire every 12 to 18 months. It’s important to get a new epinephrine auto-injector after your current one has expired or after you’ve used it. Since EpiPens have a needle, they are considered a “sharp.” Each state has its own laws regulating the disposal of sharps.

You may be able to put your expired or used EpiPens in the trash depending on where you live, but it will require extra steps to ensure the safety of sanitation workers. This may include putting the EpiPen in a plastic container and marking it with a label that says “do not recycle.” Check your state’s regulations at SafeNeedleDisposal.org.

The safest way to dispose of EpiPens is to take them to a supervised collection site such as a doctor’s office, local hospital, or pharmacy (be sure to confirm that they take EpiPens). Always make sure the EpiPen is in its case before you dispose of it – the needle could injure someone.

How to Dispose of Inhalers

Inhalers should never be thrown away because there could still be medication in them that will leak into the environment. Additionally, the containers may explode under pressure or heat. Instead, take your used inhalers to a pharmacy or doctor’s office for disposal. Police departments or fire departments often accept them for disposal as well.

Saving on Medications

If you find yourself having to replace an expired medication, be sure you’re getting the best price. ScriptSave WellRx has a pharmacy price comparison tool that will show you discounts at pharmacies in your area (even on over-the-counter medication).

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