What is the best way to dispose of old medications?

It is important to prevent pharmaceuticals from contaminating our water supply.



  1. 0 Votes

    Good question, leslie.

    The best way to dispose of old medications is any way that does not involve flushing them down the toilet, pouring them down the sink, or throwing them in the trash.  As you mentioned, it is important to keep pharmaceuticals out of our water supply, and out of contact with nature in general, as we are unsure of how they may effect wildlife.  In a study done by the US Geological Survey, 80% of water they screened from 139 streams from 30 states contained traces of pharmaceuticals.  I think the fact that we don’t exactly know the affect that our drugs might have on wildlife means there isn’t enough of an incentive for places to take on the extra work of taking back unused medications.  Your best bet is to either call your doctor or local pharmacy, as every place will be different.  

    Hope this helps!


    The US Geological Survey studied water from 139 streams in 30 states and found that 80% contained traces of pharmaceuticals

  2. 0 Votes

    Check the instructions. Sometimes they’ll provide guidance as to what’s the best way to dispose of that particular medication. If you don’t have the instructions, see if you can find them online, or call the company that manufactures the drug to ask.

    Don’t flush! Sending the medication into the water supply is not a good idea, especially if you have a septic system – drugs can leach into the water table, turn up in nearby lakes or streams, and even on your own property. (Caveat: often medications end up in the water system even when taken, through urine or feces.) The only medications that should be flushed down the toilet areFind out about disposal options in your area:

    • atazanavir sulfate (Reyataz Capsules)
    • entecavir (Baraclude Tablets)
    • fentanyl (Duragesic Transdermal System)
    • fentanyl buccal tablet (Fentora)
    • fentanyl citrate (Actiq)
    • gatifloxacin (Tequin Tablets)
    • morphine sulfate (Avinza Capsules)
    • methylphenidate (Daytrana Transdermal Patch)
    • Meperidine HCl Tablets
    • oxycodone (OxyContin Tablets)
    • oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet)
    • sodium oxybate (Xyrem)
    • stavudine (Zerit for Oral Solution)

    Find out about disposal options in your area.
        * 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 medicatons.
        * Consider donating your unused medications to third world countries. Look to the Starfish Project, who accept certain types of medications (Though not any expired medications.). There are other 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.

    If your only option is to throw the medication in the trash, then do everything you can to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.  Not only is this a concern if people might pick through your trash (whether in your neighborhood, or at a landfill, or anywhere in between) but it is also dangerous for children, pets, and wild animals.
        * Take pills out of containers so people don’t know what they are.
        * Mix the pills with undesirable substances, like kitty litter.
        * If the medication is liquid, mix it with sawdust or flour.

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