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How To Dispose Of Unused Drugs And Supplies

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Don't keep unused drugs. Consider donating them. If not, at least dispose of them properly. 
  • It is not wise to be tempted to use drugs from your cabinet if the same symptoms reappear. The new symptoms may be due to a different cause or other aspects of your condition may have changed. If symptoms reappear, speak with your doctor bout what to do. If you prefer to keep unused pills, do not use them without getting prior approval from your doctor. 
  • It is also better to get rid of opiod painkillers to avoid tempting someone with an addiction. The consequences can be deadly.

When thinking about what to do with unused drugs, please consider the following:

Do not share unused pills with a family member or friend. Only an educated health care provider knows all the aspects to look for before prescribing a drug.
Donation:  It is against the law to give prescription drugs to another person. However, there are groups that collect unused drugs for distribution to people who cannot afford them. If you have a large enough quantity to justify the effort, look for a group that has the sophistication:
  • To only give the drugs to people with an appropriate prescription 
  • To store drugs properly 
  • To watch for expiration dates.

You can also donate drugs for use in developing countries through International Aid, Inc. see: www.InternationalAid.org offsite linkor call (24 hours a day): 800.251.2502

Proper Disposal of Drugs

Do not dispose of unused drugs by flushing them down the toilet or drain unless the label or product information says it is okay. It is not good for the enviornment and the drug can show up in the drinking water supply.

Following are alternatives for proper disposal:

  • Look for a nearby collection site with a disposal program. 
    • Walgreens (in most states) has take-back kiosks where unused drugs can be deposited free of charge. Discarded drugs are incinerated.
    • To locate other collection sites, go to disposemymeds.org offsite linkor deadiversion.usdog.gov offsite link or call the drug Enforcement Administration at 800.882.9539
    • For a fee, Costco, CVS and Rite Aid sell disposal envelopes to disposal facilities.
    • If you have controlled drugs which local sites will ot take, you can find drop off sites for controlled drugs by calling: 800.882.9539

Alternatively, to dispose of drugs safely, the Office Of National Drug Control Policy suggests:

  • Take unused drugs out of their original container. This action helps keep unused drugs out of the wrong hands.
  • Don't put unused drugs down the toilet unless accompanying patient information states that it is safe to do so.
  • Mix prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, such as kitty litter or coffee grinds you don't use for your garden. Put the substance in impermeable, non-descript containers, such as empty coffee cans or sealable plastic bags.  Then place in the trash.
  • Keep in mind that drugs can contaminate landfill soil and water. 

NOTE: If you cannot find a site to take them, the FDA suggests that drugs such as fentanyl and oxycodone should be flushed down the toilet despite the enviornmental risks because these drugs can be especially harmful. For the full list, see: http://1.usa.gov/1YWB4q7 offsite link

Syringes, auto-injectors, inhalers

  • Syringes post a risk of accidental needle sticks, cuts and punctures, as well as a risk of infection from use by other people. To find a drop-off location for syringes near you, go to safeneedledisosal.org offsite linkor call 800.643.1643.
  • Inhalers: Since the remaining contents may be combustible, contact your local trash and recycling facility for proper disposal instructions.

Medical related equipment or supplies you no longer need

Consider donating unnused medical related equipment or supplies to groups such as the American Cancer Society (Tel. 800.ACS.2345) for use for patients who cannot afford to purchase their own. You can take the value of the donation as a charitable tax deduction. (For information about expenses that are considered to be "medical expenses" for tax purposes, click here.) 


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