Where Can I Dispose of Expired Medication – Overview
It is important to dispose of any expired or unwanted medication safely in order to prevent harm to other people and even animals. Discarded medications can cause harm to people as well as the environment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specific guidelines on how to dispose of medications, which include pills, inhalers and syringes.
The best way to dispose of expired or unwanted medication is to bring them to an official drug take-back facility. These are special businesses or locations that collect old medicines. These are duly registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Most people choose to flush certain highly-controlled prescription drugs down the toilet to avoid the risk of harming others, such as someone else using them, or being consumed accidentally by pets or other animals. The FDA has a complete list of such drugs.
Let’s check out some ways of disposing of expired medication in the United States.
Why Should You Properly Dispose of Expired Medication?
Some medicinal drugs can be dangerous in normal circumstances or even fatal if consumed by people who are not meant to take them. In addition, children and pets are especially at risk of accidentally consuming prescription drugs if they are improperly stored or disposed of.
It is strongly recommended to dispose of any medication that has expired, besides getting rid of unwanted, unused, damaged/contaminated or unidentified medicines. It is crucial to dispose of expired medical immediately. This helps prevent people from taking these medications by accident and from preventing people from misusing potentially dangerous and controlled drugs.
It is important to remember that people and animals outside the home may be at risk of harm if they find improperly disposed medication, such as in the trash.
How to Get Rid of Expired Medication?
Usually, you can find disposal instructions printed on most prescription and over-the-counter medications. In case there are no such specific instructions on the packaging, then you can choose one of the below-listed methods of properly disposing of expired and unwanted medication:
1 – Drug Take-Back Locations
The best and easiest way to dispose of most expired or unwanted medication types is to take them to a DEA-registered drug collection location. Here, trained handlers work to dispose of medications safely.
To find the nearest drug take-back facility near you, you can use the DEA’s official website at https://apps2.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1.
These drug drop-off locations are trained to dispose of prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, and dietary supplements.
Removing personal details, such as name and address labels, is advisable before dropping expired medication at a drug take-back location.
2 – Flushing
It is crucial to dispose of expired or unwanted medications as soon as possible, lest they cause harm to others. If you cannot find a drug collection location near you, then you can find if the specific medication is on the FDA’s “flush list” by using the official link at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know/drug-disposal-fdas-flush-list-certain-medicines.
According to the FDA, it is strongly recommended to immediately flush away methylphenidate transdermal system patches and diazepam rectal gel, as well as the medications listed below:
The FDA states that the potential risk of these medications can be fatal if improperly used and it outweighs the potential impact of flushing away on the environment. According to reports, far more significant amounts of drug waste enter water supplies when medicines pass through the body and enter the waterways through human waste.
3 – Trash bin
It is recommended to throw away expired or unwanted medications in the trash bin if you are still looking for a drug collection location near you if the medication does not have proper instructions for disposal on the packaging. You can also put expired medications in the trash bin if they are not featured on the FDA’s “flush list.”
When disposing of expired or unwanted medications in the trash bin, make sure to remove their packaging completely. Mix the medication with dirt, cat litter or coffee ground, so children and animals will not be tempted to consume it. Make sure not the crush any capsules or tablets before disposing of them.
Simply place the expired medication, without packaging, in a sealed plastic bag or any other sealed container before throwing them away in the trash can. You should ensure to recycle empty bottles or packaging but make sure to remove or blur any personal information from them first.
4 – Disposing of Needles and Syringes
It is crucial to properly dispose of needles and syringes to prevent others from getting cuts or punctures. You can easily dispose of used needles and syringes at home by placing the used items into a sharps disposal container. Make sure to keep the container out of reach of children and pets. Try to fill the sharps container sparingly with needles and syringes.
Once ready, you can get rid of the used needles and syringes by dropping them off at collection sites, such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, and even pharmacies. Besides this, you can also dispose of used needles and syringes at waste collection points or use a mail-back program from using FDA-approved containers.
Besides this, you can also check with your local trash removal services and healthcare facilities to find out if they have such a service and if any charges/fees are applicable.
5 – Inhalers
Inhalers are also dangerous if they get punctured, or set on fire, or thrown into an incinerator. To properly dispose of inhaler products, you should contact the local trash collection or recycling center and find out the best way to dispose of inhalers and other aerosol-based medicines.
It is necessary to dispose of expired medicines correctly. Children and pets can be at a high risk of consuming these drugs, which can often cause severe discomfort and even prove fatal in some cases. The best way to dispose of expired medication is to bring it to an FDA-registered drug collection location or have a trained waste handler collect it from your house.
I am a dedicated healthcare researcher and an enthusiast specializing in medical grants, medical education and research. Through my articles, I aim to empower healthcare professionals and researchers with valuable insights and resources to navigate these critical aspects effectively.