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How to Get Rid of Prescription Medicine

How to Throw Away Prescription Medication

While cleaning out some cabinets, I had a dilemma: expired prescription meds — OK to just throw away? I almost tossed a pill bottle into the trash but then stopped; do old pills leach chemicals, or worse, what happens if the wrong person (or stray animal) has access to my garbage? A quick call to my doctor proved to be an invaluable lesson in dealing with expired or unwanted medication.

  • Whatever you do, don't flush. Even though flushing unwanted drugs down the toilet may seem like a good idea, it's not — this isn't Goodfellas, after all. And the same goes for pouring anything down the drain. Septic systems can't break down the harmful substances in meds, which can end up in groundwater, lakes, rivers, or oceans, affecting animal and plant life.
  • Take it back where you found it. Depending on where you live, there may be programs in place to dispose of your unwanted medicine. Call a nearby pharmacy or hospital to see if it has a take back program. Some trash and recycling providers will also accept unwanted medication.
  • Using care, dispose of it yourself. If you have to dispose of your meds yourself, follow certain parameters to ensure proper care. Crush or break up any pills, and mix them in with kitty litter, coffee grounds, or any other undesirable substance. Place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag or container before throwing it in a trash can so the chemicals don't leak out into the garbage. Mix liquid medications with coffee grounds, sawdust, or kitty litter.
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Join The Conversation
RoaringSilence RoaringSilence 5 years
My county has a hazardous household waste facility. I take them there, along with batteries, spray cans and electronic trash. Maybe googling it real quick will help you find something similar.
Spectra Spectra 5 years
I don't really know why so many people think you're supposed to flush old meds down the toilet. It leaches into the water supply if you do that. A really good way to get rid of old pills is to wrap them in a disposable diaper (preferably one that's already dirty so you don't waste one) and throw it out. The material in the diaper will absorb the medication so it won't leak out.
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