Getting Rid of Unused Medications

This information explains how to get rid of your unused medications.

How to Get Rid of Unused Medications

Most unused medications can’t be flushed down the toilet or drain. They damage our water supply and can harm wildlife.

The best way to get rid of your unused medications is to bring them to a scheduled drug take-back event. You can find out about drug take-back events from:

  • Your local pharmacy
  • Your local recycling coordinator
  • Your city or town

Controlled substances

Not all drug take-back events are allowed to collect controlled substances (such as oxycodone hydrochloride (OxyContin®)). Controlled substances are addictive and may be abused. For this reason, they must be treated differently than other prescription medications.

The best way to get rid of your unused controlled substances is to bring them to a controlled substance public disposal location. To find one, search the Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Control Division’s website or call 800-882-9539.

Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Control Division website
https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1

If there are no scheduled drug take-back events or controlled substance public disposal locations in your area, or if you want to dispose of your medications as soon as possible, follow the steps below.

  1. Remove the medications from their prescription drug containers.
  2. Cross out your name on prescription drug containers and throw them away.
  3. Mix the medications with a substance such as coffee grounds, dirt, or kitty litter. Don’t mix unused medications with food.
  4. Place this mixture in a plastic bag or non-recyclable container. Seal the bag or container with strong tape.
  5. Place the bag or container in the trash as close to the day of pickup as possible.
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Medications That Must Be Flushed

There are certain medications that can be especially harmful or fatal if they’re used by someone other than the person for whom they were prescribed. The best way to get rid of these medications is to flush them down the toilet.

If your doctor prescribed a fentanyl (Duragesic®) patch, you must flush each patch down the toilet when you’re done using it.

If you have any unused fentanyl patches and there are no scheduled drug take-back events or controlled substance public disposal locations in your area, flush the unused fentanyl patches down the toilet as well.

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