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Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know

When your medicines are no longer needed, they should be disposed of promptly. Consumers and caregivers should remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from their home as quickly as possible to help reduce the chance that others accidentally take or intentionally misuse the unneeded medicine, and to help reduce drugs from entering the environment. Below, we list some options and special instructions for you to consider when disposing of expired, unwanted, or unused medicines.

Your best choices for disposal of unused or expired medicines are:

Consumers and caregivers should remove expired or unused medicines from their home as quickly as possible to help reduce the chance that others may accidentally take or intentionally misuse the unneeded medicine.

Medicine take-back options are the preferred way to safely dispose of most types of unneeded medicines. There are generally two kinds of take-back options: periodic events and permanent collection sites.

Periodic events

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where temporary collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal of prescription drugs. It should be noted, however, that a small number of medicines have specific directions to immediately flush them down the toilet when they are no longer needed and a take-back option is not readily available.

Local law enforcement agencies may also sponsor medicine take-back events in your community. Consumers can also contact their local waste management authorities to learn about events in their area.

Permanent collection sites

Another option for consumers and long-term care facilities to dispose of unneeded medicines is to transfer these medicines to DEA-registered collectors, which safely and securely collect and dispose of pharmaceuticals containing controlled substances and other medicines.

In your community, authorized permanent collection sites may be in retail pharmacies, hospital or clinic pharmacies, and law enforcement facilities. Some authorized collection sites may also offer mail-back programs or collection receptacles, sometimes called “drop-boxes,” to assist consumers in safely disposing of their unused medicines.

Consumers can visit the DEA’s website for more information about drug disposal, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events and to locate a DEA-registered collector in their area.

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