BACK TOTOP Browse A-ZSearchBrowse A-ZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0-9 E-mail FormEmail ResultsName:Email address:Recipients Name:Recipients address:Message: Print-FriendlyBookmarksbookmarks-menuHow and when to get rid of unused medicinesDisposal of unused medicines; Expired medicines; Unused medicinesMany people have unused or expired prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines at home. Learn when you should get rid of unused medicines and how to dispose of them safely.When to Get Rid of MedicinesYou should get rid of a medicine when:Your health care provider changes your prescription but you still have some medicine left You feel better and your provider says you should stop taking the medicine You have OTC medicines that you no longer need You have medicines that are past their expiration dates Do not take expired medicines. They may not be as effective or the ingredients of the medicine may have changed. This can make them unsafe for use.Read the labels regularly to check the expiration date of a medicine. Discard any that have expired and those you no longer need. Storing expired or unwanted medicines can increase the risk of:Taking the wrong medicine due to mix-ups Accidental poisoning in children or pets Overdose Misuse or illegal abuse How to Dispose of Expired Medicines SafelyDisposing medicines safely prevents others from using them accidentally or intentionally. It also prevents harmful residues from getting into the environment. Look for disposal instructions on the label or information booklet. DO NOT FLUSH UNUSED MEDICINESYou should not flush most medicines or pour them down the drain. Medicines contain chemicals that may not break down in the environment. When flushed down the toilet or sink, these residues can pollute our water resources. This may affect fish and other marine life. These residues can also end up in our drinking water.However, some medicines must be disposed of as soon as possible to reduce their potential harm. You can flush them to prevent someone from using them. These include opioids or narcotics usually prescribed for pain. You should ONLY flush medicines when it specifically says to do so on the label. DRUG TAKE-BACK PROGRAMSThe best way to dispose of your medicines is to bring them to drug take-back programs. These programs safely dispose of medicines by burning them up. Drug take-back programs are organized in most communities. There may be drop boxes for disposing of medicines or your town may have special days when you can bring hazardous household items such as unused medicines to a specific location for disposal. Contact your local trash and recycling service to find out where you can dispose of medicines or when the next event is scheduled in your community. You can also check the US Drug Enforcement Agency website for drug take-back information: www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html.Check with the take-back program as to what types of medicines they don't accept.HOUSEHOLD DISPOSALIf you don't have a take-back program available, you can throw your medicines out with your household trash. To do so safely:Take the medicine out of its container and mix it with other unpleasant garbage such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds. Do not crush pills or capsules. Place the mixture into a sealable plastic bag or sealed containers that won't leak and dispose in the trash. Be sure to remove your Rx number and all personal information from the medicine bottle. Scratch it off or cover it with a permanent marker or duct tape. Throw the container and pill bottles out with the rest of your trash. Or, wash the bottles thoroughly and reuse for screws, nails, or other household things. When to Call the DoctorCall your provider if:Someone consumes expired medicines accidentally or on purpose You have an allergic reaction to a medicine Open ReferencesReferencesUS Environmental Protection Agency website. Collecting and disposing of unwanted medicines. www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/collecting-and-disposing-unwanted-medicines. Accessed October 10, 2020.U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Disposal of unused medicines: what you should know. www.fda.gov/drugs/safe-disposal-medicines/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know. Updated October 1, 2020. Accessed October 10, 2020.U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Don't be tempted to use expired medicines. www.fda.gov/drugs/special-features/dont-be-tempted-use-expired-medicines. Updated March 1, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2020.AllVideoImagesTogSelf Care How and when to get rid of unused medicinesStoring your medicinesRelated Information Review Date: 10/10/2020 Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- © 1997- All rights reserved. A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.