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Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones by Properly Disposing Unused Medication

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) holds Drug Take Back Days twice a year in April and October. This year, National Prescription Drug Take Back Days are being held on April 22 and October 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Drug take back days provide a safe and easy way to anonymously dispose of prescription drugs and over the counter medication. The event is free and there are no questions asked.

For more information about Drug Take Back Day, visit the FDA’s website here.

Many communities host events to collect medications. These are offered through the DEA and local police departments. To find a location near you, use this tool provided by the DEA.

If you cannot drop off during Drug Take Back Day, you can typically dispose of drugs at any time at police stations and local pharmacies.

If you have any expired or unused medications, it is important to properly dispose of them as soon as possible. The expiration date is critical in deciding whether a medicine is safe to use and will work as intended.

According to the FDA, each year in the United States, approximately 60,000 emergency department visits and 450,000 calls to poison centers are made from children finding and ingesting medication.

Why is it Important to Properly Dispose of Medication

  • Medication can lose potency over time causing it to become less effective or not effective at all.
  • Prescriptions could end up in the wrong hands. What’s safe for you may be harmful to someone else including children and pets.
  • Drugs can even have a change in chemical composition actually making them harmful.
  • Some medications can grow bacteria.

If a medication has expired, there is no guarantee that it will be safe or effective. It should be discarded immediately either at a local Drug Take Back Day event or at-home depending on the medication.

At-Home Medication Disposal Options

Below, we have some at-home disposal options. Before using any of these options, always remove pharmacy labels or block out personal information with a marker. Take an inventory of all medications in your home. Make sure they are securely stored (away from kids and pets) and all caps are on tight.

If you’re unable to leave your home and need to dispose of medicine, here are some safe ways you can do so:

Tablets, Capsules, Powders, Liquids

These can be disposed of in your trash if you make them unusable. Put them into a resealable plastic bottle (e.g., soda bottle or milk jug). Fill with water to dissolve them. Then fill with dish soap or laundry detergent so the liquid is not drinkable.


Once removed, patches must be handled carefully. They still have a large amount of active drugs. Fold the patch so the adhesive medicated sides touch each other. Put the patch in a plastic bottle with soap or another substance to prevent it from being used.

Injectables or Ear/Eye Drops

These can be squirted into the trash. Insulin or other self-administered drugs can be drawn into a syringe and squirted into the trash. Empty dropper bottles and vials can be thrown in the trash.


Needles must be disposed of in a container to prevent them from sticking to others. You can use a SHARPS container that you purchase or one that is provided by a medical professional.

You can also dispose of them in a sturdy container like a metal coffee can. The can should have a lid. A plastic bottle with a lid will also work. When full, these can be disposed of at a disposal location or in a SHARPS container.


Remove the metal canister that holds the medication from the plastic mouthpiece. Dispose of the pieces separately so they cannot be used by someone else.

Topical Ointments, Creams

Remove pharmacy labels that have your name on them and squeeze the remainder of the medication into the trash or onto paper towels and then into the trash.

Bottom Line

By removing unused and expired medication, you can reduce the risk of accidental poisoning; overdose; abuse; and help to keep your community safer.

If you’re unsure of how to dispose of a medication and would like to speak to a pharmacist, give us a call at 1-877-355-7225.

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