How to Properly Dispose of Expired Medication

Discover the best way to dispose of expired, unwanted, or unused medications.

Are you looking to clean out your medicine cabinet filled with expired medication you no longer use? It is important to properly discard medication as it can pose a harmful risk if it falls into the wrong hands.

Getting rid of expired medication is more complicated than throwing it in the trash or toilet. The proper disposal of medication keeps people, animals, and the environment safe from the poisonous effects of drugs. Keep reading to learn the best ways to dispose of your expired, unwanted, or unused medications.

What is Expired Medication?

Keeping and using expired medication can be risky. All medication is required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have a stamped expiration date. After the expiration date, the medication’s strength and side effects are not guaranteed.

No medication is the same and loses its potency at different rates, depending on how it has been stored. It has been deemed unsafe to take expired medication as it may be harmful to the body.

Where should you dispose of expired medication?

To protect others from the misuse of drug medications and lessen the harsh environmental impact of flushing drugs, you must properly dispose of unused medications.

What is a medication collection site?

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has set up thousands of prescriptions and over-the-counter medication collection sites across the country. A lot of these kiosks are placed at your local pharmacies. Not all medications or related items are accepted. It is important to look into the list of acceptable items.

Note: It is recommended to use a permanent marker to block off all personal information on the medication bottle; however, this is not required.     

Can I flush expired medication down the toilet?

In most cases, flushing medication down the toilet can be extremely harmful to the environment and water supply. It is encouraged not to use the toilet as a way to remove dangerous medications from the home, but instead use the trash can. The FDA maintains an updated list that includes acceptable medications to flush down the toilet.

Is it safe to use the trash can for the disposal of old medication?

When you cannot get to a DEA medication collection site, throwing medication in the trash is okay, with precaution. For the safety of family members and animals in the home, it is recommended to do the following:

  1. Without crushing or breaking the pills, mix the medicine into a sealed plastic bag with dark substances like cat litter, coffee, or dirt.
  2. Throw away the bag in a secure trash container at home.
  3. It is recommended to use a permanent marker to block off all personal information on the medication bottle.

What is the process of donating medication?

There is no federal regulation for the donation of prescribed medication, however, each state has its own recycling program regulations. Under your state laws, you may be able to donate unused, not expired medication to someone uninsured or underinsured.

If you or a loved one comes in contact with expired medication and suspect poisoning or any other unusual symptoms, Albuquerque ER & Hospital is here to help you quickly feel better. Our state-of-the-art emergency room with an onsite laboratory, featuring advanced testing capabilities, is equipped to handle any medical injury or illness. Open 24/7/365/ with little to no wait, visit us today!

Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Albuquerque ER & Hospital and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.