4/24/2017

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How To Dispose Of Unused Medicines

Although medicines are usually thrown in the trash or flushed down the toilet, those actions can cause problems for people and the environment. Most drugs can be thrown out with the trash and some of them can be flushed down the toilet with minimal affects, but consumers should take certain precautions before tossing them out.

Some communities and certain drug stores offer "take back" programs for safe disposal alternatives.

Guidelines for Drug Disposal

The FDA worked with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop the first consumer guidance for proper disposal of prescription drugs. Issued by ONDCP in February 2007, the federal guidelines are summarized here:

Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.

If no instructions are given, throw the drugs in the household trash, but first:

  • Take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.
  • Put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  • Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government's household trash and recycling service (see blue pages in phone book) to see if a take-back program is available in your community.

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