How to dispose of unused prescription drugs

As we’ve been writing about here, teens who abuse prescription drugs often get them from their parents’ medicine cabinets. In many cases, the drugs are not currently being used by the parents; they were simply never discarded.

With this in mind, we’ve decided to reprint the federal government’s guidelines for the proper disposal of prescription drugs. They are:

  • Take unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers. Throw the packaging in the trash.
  • Mix prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and put them in impermeable, non-descript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags. This will further ensure the drugs are not diverted.
  • Flush prescription drugs down the toilet only if the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs doing so.
  • Take advantage of community pharmaceutical takeback programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Some communities have pharmaceutical takeback programs or community solid-waste programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Where these exist, these programs are a good way to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals.

The FDA advises that the following 13 drugs be flushed down the toilet instead of thrown in the trash:

  • Actiq (fentanyl citrate)
  • Daytrana transdermal patch (methylphenidate)
  • Duragesic transdermal system (fentanyl)
  • OxyContin tablets (oxycodone)
  • Avinza capsules (morphine sulfate)
  • Baraclude tablets (entecavir)
  • Reyataz capsules (atazanavir sulfate)
  • Tequin tablets (gatifloxacin)
  • Zerit for oral solution (stavudine)
  • Meperidine HCl tablets
  • Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen)
  • Xyrem (sodium oxybate)
  • Fentora (fentanyl buccal tablet)

Note: Patients should always refer to printed material accompanying their medication for specific instructions.

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Comments (4)

With the increasing levels of drugs in our drinking water, is flushing them still the recommended approach?

“only if the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs doing so. “

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