How to Dispose of Expired Medications Safely

There have been increasing reports recently that have discovered trace levels of prescription and over-the-counter medications in the drinking water supply of cities all over the nation. The water most likely received these levels from both drugs that were excreted as well as from drugs being flushed down the toilet.

Following these findings, the FDA has issued guidelines on how to properly dispose of expired or unused drugs. Unfortunately, many people are still unsure of how to dispose of expired medications safely. Below are the 3 main methods of how to get rid of drugs that are lying around the house safely and effectively.

How to Dispose of Expired Medications:

  1. Remove the pills from their original bottle. Crush the pills along with an unappetizing substance. This can include coffee grounds, dust, or pet litter. Then, place the mixture into an impermeable container that will not let the contents escape under any conditions. Using a jar with a lid or a plastic Ziploc bag are wise choices. Finally, dispose of the container right into the household trash bag.
  2. Another option is to flush the medications down the toilet. However, this method comes with a big warning! Only a small number of drugs are applicable. Drugs can only be flushed if the label or patient information printed on the bottle explicitly states. The FDA specifies that certain drugs must be flushed instead of being thrown into the garbage. Some of the drugs that are flushable include OxyContin, Actiq, Avinza, Reyataz, and Xyrem. For the complete list, please visit the FDA website.
  3. The final method to safely get rid of medications is through your local pharmacy. Most offer a drug take-back program for this specific purpose. It is meant to encourage all members of the public to bring drugs to their store so that they can be disposed of correctly. Check with your pharmacy to see if a program is available. If there is, it is a great opportunity and you should utilize it because it prevents any mistakes in the disposal process.

Knowing how to dispose of expired medications, or drugs that are just taking up space in the medicine cabinet, can save lives. When drugs are no longer needed for treatment, it is crucial that they are disposed of so that no one is harmed. Because some medications can be fatal with just one dose, accidental ingestion by children, pets, or other members of the family can be deadly.

When there are medications lying around, it can be tempting to take them when the medical condition flares up again. However, expiration dates do matter. Any expired drugs will be much less effective and very risky to consume because the chemical composition can change. Never use expired medications. Instead, dispose of the pills through one of the above three methods and return to your doctor.

Unused drugs can also make their way into the wrong person’s hands when they are not closely monitored. These prescription pills are increasingly becoming the new drug of choice for many individuals, including teen children. They are cheap, easy to explain, and very accessible. This means that you must be careful with all drugs that you are currently using and dispose of all that you are not promptly.

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Never give someone else your unused drugs. Even though medical conditions may be similar, the drug doses are prescribed specifically for the person on the bottle. Without doctor moderation, it is unclear how a person will react and this could lead to harm to that individual.

Prescription drugs can be expensive for the patients who need them, but there are better alternatives than getting the medication from someone else. can get all the medications you need safely at a lower cost. Never get your prescription drugs from any unreliable sources or other people around you.

Spread the word on how to dispose of expired medications. It will save lives!

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs.

How to Dispose of Expired Medications Safely

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