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How-To: Safely Dispose of Prescription Meds

No matter how diligent I am about trying to keep my bathroom shelves clutter-free, they still seem to eventually get overrun by prescription medications that have a pill or two left in the bottom of the bottle. It's definitely a no-no to keep prescription medications sitting around your home, especially if they're past their expiration date.

To find out the right and wrong ways to rid your home of this potentially dangerous clutter, check out my tips when you


  1. Take all out-of-date prescription meds off your shelves, but not so fast — if you’re considering tossing them down your drain, think again. Medications such as Zoloft have been found in lakes and rivers and are inhibiting algae growth and aquatic health. Trace amounts of antibiotics and estrogen are also showing up in your drinking water. To prevent further contamination, don't flush your medication down the sink or toilet.
  2. Ask your pharmacist if he or she can take back medications. Some pharmacies, such as Elephant Pharmacy and Kaiser Permanente, are taking back medications.
  3. Call your city or state to ask about drug disposal programs, such as this one in Maine..
  4. If you must put your medications in the trash, keep them in their original childproof and watertight containers. Leave the label on, but scratch out your name, your doctor’s name, and your address to protect your privacy. Add some water or vinegar to pills to render them useless. For liquids, add some flour or kitty litter. You can conceal the bottles by tying them up in plastic bags before throwing them out.
  5. The bottom line is that there's no perfect way to dispose of prescription medications. The EPA is currently working on a more comprehensive drug recycling program, but for now, try to keep your meds out of the water and waste stream, and organize on the local, city, or state level to demand a better solution.


Join The Conversation
girlie871 girlie871 7 years
wow I had no idea but I'm glad I know now, I'm gonna have to pass this information along to my family and friends.
emalove emalove 8 years
Never thought about this before...I've always just tossed them. Oops.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
imcs, I was prescribed pain medication after a surgery but I ended up not needing to take any of them....
imcs imcs 8 years
It is my understanding that when a doctor prescribes a medication, you're supposed to take all of the medication. In which case, there shouldn't be any leftover medication.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
34 sounds like a good idea. I used to flush mine till I heard on the news the other day how it can come back in your drinking water. That's scary for those with allergies to meds!
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
oh that is useful! i never thought to add something to the pills to make them useless (why i was afraid of throwing them away in the first place)
hihowareya hihowareya 8 years
I've also heard that mixing your meds in old coffee grounds is good. My dog sometimes gets into the trash, and those childproof containers are not dog-proof. Mixing old meds in used coffee grounds makes them undesirable to other creatures.
trmach99 trmach99 8 years
FYI, medicine should NOT be stored in the bathroom. It should be kept in a cool, dry place, the bathroom is too humid.
macgirl macgirl 8 years
I like the idea of putting vinegar on them. I found some stuff a few months ago and was completely stumped on how to safely get rid of them. Great post!
esmerb esmerb 8 years
Thanks for posting this Casa. I have been wondering how to properly dispose of some meds.
smileyface smileyface 8 years
I just cleaned out my medicine cabinet and under my sink yesterday. It was so cluttered I'm so glad I did it! And I had a few old prescriptions and I just threw them in the trash.
flyingroo flyingroo 8 years
Number 4 is the one that I found it's working all the time.
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