Where Can I Dispose of Expired Medication?

Where Can I Dispose of Expired Medication – Overview

It is important to safely dispose of any expired or unwanted medication to prevent harm to other people and animals. Discarded medications can cause harm to people as well as the environment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) provide guidelines and programs for the disposal of medications, including 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. Drug take-back facilities are registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Flushing certain prescription drugs is recommended only for specific medications on the FDA’s flush list to prevent accidental ingestion by others or animals, not most 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.

Disposing of expired, unwanted, unused, damaged, contaminated, or unidentified medicines is recommended to prevent misuse and accidental ingestion. 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?

Where Can I Dispose of Expired Medication

Where Can I Dispose of Expired Medication – 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, visit the DEA’s official website at https://apps.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 harm others. If you cannot find a drug collection location near you, you can find out 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.

The FDA recommends flushing only specific medications, such as methylphenidate transdermal patches and diazepam rectal gel, along with other drugs on the FDA’s flush list, when take-back options are not available:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Benz-hydrocodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Meperidine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Tapentadol

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 disposal instructions 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 medications in the trash, do not remove their packaging completely; instead, make them unattractive and inaccessible to others. Mix the medication with dirt, cat litter, or coffee grounds so children and animals will not be tempted to consume it. Before disposal, it’s recommended to mix medications (not crush them) with undesirable substances.

Place the medication and undesirable substances mixture in a sealed container or bag before disposal in the trash. 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

Properly disposing of needles and syringes is crucial 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 dispose of the used needles and syringes by dropping them off at collection sites, such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, and even pharmacies. Additionally, consider waste collection points or mail-back programs using FDA-approved containers for needles and syringes disposal.

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. For inhalers, consult specific disposal instructions from manufacturers or local waste management services due to potential hazards.


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.

See Also

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