Following with our spring cleaning disposal theme, this week we’ll talk about disposing of medicine.

It’s a good idea to go through your medicine cabinets every few months and dispose of medicine. Many medications come with disposal instructions, but this isn’t true for all of them. If you have old medicine sitting around, it’s time to throw it away.


There’s a few issues that make medication disposal a little tricky. First of all, some drugs that are placed in the garbage could harm other people or animals. You never know who could be going through your trash. 

Some medications come with specific instructions to flush them down the toilet. This is because they could be fatal if taken by others, especially children. While some argue that this could leave trace amounts of drugs in the water system, the FDA has compiled a list of approved flushable drugs.  Still, there hasn’t been much research on the topic so, if possible, you may want to avoid flushing medication. 


When you first go through your medicine cabinet, carefully read the labels. Some will instruct you to flush any extra down the toilet and others may say it’s safe to dispose of in the trash.

Find out if there is a medicine take-back program in your area. The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) schedules drug-take back days, where participating locations collect prescription and over-the-counter medications. This year’s take back day is April 27, 2013

If you do dispose of medicine in your trash, make sure to scratch off any personal information that might be on the label. The FDA also says that if no instructions are on the drug label and there is no drug take-back program in your area, throw the drugs in your trash but follow some easy steps:

Take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.

Put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.

For more information on safe medication disposal in your area, visit the FDA’s website.

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