Medication Clean Out and Disposal

A great way to keep yourself busy and tidy up your medicine cabinet is to participate in National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day on Friday, April 17, 2020.  There are still ways you can dispose of your medications, even with the postponement of the DEA Prescription Drug Take Back Day scheduled for April 25th.

For medications that have a greater potential for misuse, one simple way to dispose of medications may be by flushing them. You can check the patient information leaflet that comes with the medication or the FDA flush list to see if your prescription medication is one of the 15 active pharmaceutical ingredients that can be flushed down the sink or toilet.  The flush list has details on safe disposal. You may wonder if this will have an impact on the environment. The FDA and Environmental Protection Agency published a paper stating they have not found any negative environmental effects from flushing the ingredients specified on the flush list. The FDA also suggests that the benefits outweigh the risks when other disposal options are not available.

If you are concerned with flushing medications, you can still dispose of the medications in your household trash. Follow the steps listed below for prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) pills (tablets and capsules), liquids, drops, patches, and topical products (creams, ointments, lotions, gels, etc.).

  1. Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. This makes the medicine less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.
  2. Put the mixture in something you can close (a re-sealable zipper storage bag, empty can, or other container) to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
  3. Throw the container in the garbage.
  4. Scratch out all your personal information (including the Rx number) on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity and privacy. Throw the packaging away.

Disposing of unwanted or expired medications decreases the risk of someone taking or misusing your medications and prevents confusing an older medication with a newer one.  These steps will help ensure that a child or pet cannot access or ingest the medications after they are in the trash.

If you do not feel comfortable disposing of medications at home, you can contact your local pharmacy or health care provider, as they may have other options to dispose of your medications. Local police or fire departments may have drug disposal bins, and there are also options to mail back medications to a disposal company. With the current pandemic and social distancing orders, the options may be more limited for disposing of medications at a pharmacy or police station. Finally, there are pouches that can be purchased to effectively get rid of unwanted medications.  Products such as DisposeRx® ( and Deterra Drug disposal pouches  ( can be purchased for environmentally safe drug disposal.  No matter the route, discarding expired and unwanted medications will help protect you and your family from accidental medication exposure.


Posted April 2020

Leave a Reply