Medicines play an important role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when they are no longer needed it’s important to dispose of them properly to avoid harm to others. Below, we list some disposal options and some special disposal instructions for you to consider when throwing out expired, unwanted, or unused medicines.
1st Choice: Drug Take-Back Events
- To dispose of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service and ask if a drug take-back program is available in your community. Some counties hold household hazardous waste collection days, where prescription and over-the-counter drugs are accepted at a central location for proper disposal.
- Missouri Residents please click here to visit the Missouri Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal website.
2nd Choice: Household Disposal Steps*
- 1. Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.
- 2. Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
- 3. Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
- 4. Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
- 5. The sealed container with the drug mixture, and the empty drug containers, can now be placed in the trash.
3rd Choice: Flushing of Certain Medicines
- There is a small number of medicines that may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal with just one dose if they are used by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed. To prevent accidental ingestion by children, pets, or anyone else, a few medicines have specific disposal instructions indicating they should be flushed down the sink or toilet as soon as they are no longer needed, and when they cannot be disposed of through a medicine take-back program. Please click here to view a list of these medications.
* Drug Disposal Guidelines, Office of National Drug Control Policy, October 2009