Find out if there is a special collection for unused and expired drugs in your area by contacting your local household hazardous waste collection coordinator and reviewing other take back options if you do not have a locally sponsored collection.
Commonly collected products include:
- Prescription and over-the-counter medication
- Medication samples
- Medicated ointments and lotions
- Veterinary medications
Dispose of unwanted medicines in the trash if a collection program is not available, unless the medication is a chemotherapy agent. Chemotherapy agents should be returned to the clinic that dispensed them for proper disposal. Keep pharmaceuticals in their original container since the labels may contain safety information, the container is chemically compatible, and the caps are typically watertight and child-proof. Scratch out, cover with tape, or use permanent marker to make personal information unreadable.
Preparing Drugs for Disposal
To minimize the risk of misuse, it is important to properly prepare medications for disposal:
For solid medications (such as pills or capsules), add a small amount of water to partially dissolve them. Then seal the container with duct tape or another opaque material.
For liquid medications, add table salt, flour, charcoal, or non-toxic powdered spices like turmeric or mustard to create a strong and unattractive mixture. This discourages anyone from consuming it. Seal the container tightly with duct tape to prevent leaks and breakage.
Blister packs containing pills should be wrapped in multiple layers of duct tape or an opaque material.
Unused ampules, vials, and IV bags should not be opened except for scratching out the patient’s name. Wrap these items with duct tape or another opaque material to minimize breakage and place them in an opaque plastic container like an empty yogurt tub.
Double-bag the prepared drugs in a closable plastic bag or place them in another container with a taped lid before disposing of them in the trash. This prevents immediate identification of drug-containing packages and contains any potential leaks during disposal. Avoid putting drugs into materials that may attract pets or wildlife.
When disposing of patches, fold their sticky sides together and place them in a sturdy container with a child-resistant cap. Ensure that the opening is large enough for folded patches but too small for a child’s hand to fit through. A washed-out bottle with a child-resistant cap can work well for this purpose. Alternatively, you can ask your pharmacist for an empty bottle or prescription vial with a child-resistant cap, or look for “sharps containers” at drugstores used by diabetics for their insulin needles (some can even be mailed back to manufacturers when ready). Remember to discard frequently and remove patch containers from your home regularly since having unused patches accessible increases potential harm they could cause if misused.