Safe Medication Disposal

Medicines play an important role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when they are no longer needed it is essential to dispose of them properly to help reduce harm from accidental exposure or intentional misuse.

The best way to safely dispose of the medications is to take them to an authorized collector or to a medicine take-back event.  If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, and disposal instructions did not come with your medication, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash: 

Follow these simple steps to dispose of medicines in the household trash

Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds;

Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;

Throw the container in your household trash;

Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, then dispose of the container.

A small number of medicines may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal with just one dose if they are used by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed.  To prevent accidental exposure to, or ingestion of, these potentially dangerous medicines it is recommended that these medicines be disposed of quickly.  If medication take-back programs or DEA authorized collectors are unavailable, medications such as: Fentanyl, Demerol, Dilaudid, Morphine, Oxycodone, Oxycontin and Percocet should be flushed down the toilet as soon as they are no longer needed.

For additional information on disposing of your unwanted, unneeded or expired medications, talk to your pharmacist or visit the FDA website.  A list of local authorized collectors is available by visiting one of the websites listed below and entering in your zip code or by calling the DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539.

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Medication disposal site locators:

More information on medication disposal:

Information on the prevention of prescription drug misuse:


Content adapted from the FDA 3.9.18

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