The Safest Ways to Get Rid of Leftover Medication

While cleaning out your medicine cabinet you come across leftover meds from last year or even the year before. How should you toss them? Read on to find out.


Even though it may seem like the easy thing to do, flushing medication down the toilet is one of the worst things you can do. According to American Chemical Society (ACS), pharmaceuticals are found not only in our waterways but in our drinking water, too. The contamination may already be harming aquatic life and may even be affecting people. Though the ACS cannot determine the long term effects of this exposure, their testing did reveal that there are trace levels of meds in our potable water. Considering that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 2.3 billion drugs are prescribed during doctor’s visits and another 329 million are ordered from hospital outpatient visits, the potential for water contamination is pretty high.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests the following guidelines for proper disposal for all over-the-counter and prescription drugs:

  1. Check your prescription label for instructions on what to do with any leftover medications.
  2. Check your town to find out if there are any central locations that accept drug waste.
  3. Ask your local law enforcement agency if they have a drug take back program or can suggest one.
  4. Check Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the American Medicine Chest Challenge for registered places, including many hospitals and pharmacies, that collect used medicines.
  5. Ask your local pharmacists if they take back drugs for proper disposal.
  6. If you still decide to handle disposing of the meds yourself, remove them from their original container and mix them with used coffee grounds, dirt, or kitty litter to make them less appealing to animals, kids, or addicts searching for drugs. Place inside a thick sealable bag. Double up if there is any chance of leakage.
  7. Remove all personal info from prescription bottles so your personal medical information is kept hidden.
  8. If you have any doubts or questions simply contact your pharmacist.

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