Ask a Pharmacist

Unused Medications?

checking medicine cabinet photo

Many of us who take prescription medications know how important those medicines are to treat our various health conditions. There are times, however, when some of our medications are discontinued by doctors or we may no longer need to take certain medicine. We may also find expired prescription or over the counter medication we have obtained during the years that need to be disposed of. It is important to remove any unused medication from your household as soon as possible. Doing this will reduce the chance that anyone will take these medicines whether intentionally or accidentally, especially children. One question that is often asked is where can a person dispose of unused and/or expired medicine? The answer – medication take back programs.

Medication Take Back Programs

There are medicine take back programs available all over the U.S. that will safely dispose of many types of unused or unwanted medicine. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts take-back programs at various times through the year. These programs or collection sites will dispose of unused medicine properly and safely.

It is usually not recommended to flush medication down a sink or a toilet or to simply throw unused medicine in the trash. However, if there are not take-back programs in your area, some medications may be disposed of in this manner. If you choose to throw unused medication in the trash, make sure you mix the medicine with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, coffee grounds or kitty litter. You shouldn’t crush tablets or open capsules before mixing with the substance you choose. Once the medication is mixed, place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag or other sealed container and then you can throw away in your trash. Remember to make sure there are no 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 Medication Recommended for Disposal by Flushing.

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 to find out more information about authorized drug collection programs in your area.


How to Dispose of Unused Medications – ScriptSave WellRx Prescription Savings & Wellness News

Do you need to save on your prescription medications?

Visit to compare prices on medications at pharmacies near you.