How to Dispose of Medication

Two Methods:Disposing of Most MedicationsDisposing of Potentially Dangerous Medications

Did you know flushing medicine down the toilet or washing it down the drain can be harmful to the environment? There's a safer way to get rid of the expired medicine cluttering up your bathroom cabinet. Read on to learn how to dispose of unused medication in a way that ensures it won't fall into the wrong hands or contaminate the groundwater in your area.

Method 1
Disposing of Most Medications

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    Don't flush most medications. In recent years it has been discovered that flushing certain medications that contain hormones, antibiotics, and other substances can lead to contamination of groundwater and other detrimental effects. Instead of flushing these medications, the safest way to dispose of them is to disguise them and then throw them away with your trash.
    • Read the packaging on the medication and look for instructions on safe disposal.
    • There are certain medications considered to be too potentially harmful to throw out with the trash. If the medication is a highly controlled substance that could cause severe medical harm to someone else if they were to ingest it, the FDA recommends flushing it or disposing of it in another way.
    • If you're not sure whether the medication you want to get rid of is considered to be highly controlled, ask your pharmacist what to do.
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    Mix medications with kitty litter or coffee grounds. Mixing either pills or liquids with an undesirable substance like kitty litter or coffee grounds will make it much less likely that a child or household pet will find and ingest the substance.
    • If the pills are large or brightly colored, crush them or dissolve them before mixing them with another substance.
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    Place the mixture in a plastic bag and seal it. This extra level of protection is another way to make sure the medication won't fall into the wrong hands.[1]
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    Throw the bag away with your trash. Once the medication is thoroughly disguised and sealed in a bag, simply throw it out with your trash.
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    Remove the labels from the empty medicine bottles. Scrape off the labels so that the print is illegible before you throw the bottles away. This measure is taken to protect your identity.

Method 2
Disposing of Potentially Dangerous Medications

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    Determine whether your medication is considered potentially dangerous. The FDA has published a list of medications that it recommends against throwing away with the trash. If someone were to find and ingest these medications, he or she could face serious health consequences.[2]
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    Look into community drug disposal programs. Many communities have programs that allow you to bring in unused medications so that they can be disposed of safely and properly.
    • Call a local pharmacy to find out if they can dispose of your medication. In some states, although not all, they have an unused medication disposal program that the pharmacies themselves may use to dispose of outdated medications.
    • Consider donating your unused medications to third world countries. There are organizations you can find online. Alternatively, consider contacting your local Emergency Rooms, occasionally they will collect usable supplies and medications for donation out-country.
    • Call your local trash service - they might have household waste facilities that will incinerate the medication.
    • Contact your local hospital or medical center who will place unused medications into their Bio Hazard containers for incineration. All hospitals have this option so there is never a need to toss or flush unused medication.[3]
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    Flush if you have no other option. If your medication is on the FDA's list of medications that should not be thrown out, and you have no other immediate way of disposing of them, flushing might be the best option.[4]
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  • Sometimes there will be a conflict between the instructions and the guidelines given in the article. Some medications are accompanied by paperwork that says not to flush, for example, but the FDA recommends flushing that medication.There is no clear consensus on how to dispose of the medication in question.
  • If you are worried about your privacy, remove confidential information from old prescription medication containers before disposing them. Take an extra minute to destroy the label that describes the medication, your name, your doctor's name, the prescription number, your pharmacy's name, and in many cases your medical condition. You wouldn't want any of this information made public by someone sifting your trash
  • If you have an ongoing medical condition that you aren't insured for, or expect not to be insure for in the future, consider saving your medication instead of disposing of it. That way you'll have it for a rainy day; many people have ongoing knee and back injuries which they are not insured for, but who could benefit from prescription pain medication.
  • Most UK pharmacies will accept medication for disposal.

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