Disposing of Medications
Listed are some ways of disposing of outdated or no longer used medications. Some of the data printed is from the Food and Drug Admin, pamphlet available at fda.gov search disposing of medications. Medicines play an important role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when they are no longer needed it’s important to dispose of them properly to avoid harm to others. Below, we list some disposal options and some special disposal instructions for you to consider when throwing out expired, unwanted, or unused medicines.
Medicine Take-Back Programs
Medicine take-back programs for disposal are a good way to remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from the home and reduce the chance that others may accidentally take the medicine. Contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to see if there is a medicine take-back program in your community and learn about any special rules regarding which medicines can be taken back. You can also talk to your pharmacist to see if he or she knows of other medicine disposal programs in your area.
Most pharmacies have discontinued this program but do offer prepaid disposable drug mailers for $3.99.
Disposal in Household Trash
If no medicine take-back program is available in your area, consumers can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:
- Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds;
- Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag; and
- Throw the container in your household trash
Flushing of Certain Medicines
There is a small number of medicines that may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal in a single dose if they are used by someone other than the person the medicine was prescribed for. List of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing(follow link or see list). For this reason, a few medicines have specific disposal instructions that indicate they should be flushed down the sink or toilet when they are no longer needed and when they cannot be disposed of through a drug take-back program. When you dispose of these medicines down the sink or toilet, they cannot be accidentally used by children, pets, or anyone else.
You may have also received disposal directions for these medicines when you picked up your prescription. If your medicine is on this list, and you did not receive information containing disposal instructions along with your dispensed prescription, you can find instructions on how to dispose of the medicines at DailyMed, by searching on the drug name, and then looking in one of the following sections of the prescribing information:
- Information for Patients and Caregivers
- Patient Information
- Patient Counseling Information
- Safety and Handling Instructions
- Medication Guide
FDA remains committed to working with other Federal agencies and medicine manufacturers to develop alternative, safe disposal policies. Below is some additional information about flushing medicine that is no longer needed. If you have additional questions about disposing of your medicine, please contact us at 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do the medications on the list have flushing directions for disposal?
The medicines on this list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing (see attached list) are safe and effective when used as prescribed, but they could be especially harmful to a child, pet, or anyone else if taken accidentally. Some of the possible harmful effects include breathing difficulties or heart problems, possibly leading to death. For these reasons, FDA advises that when it isn’t possible to return these medicines through a medicine take-back program, flushing these medicines down the sink or toilet is currently the best way to immediately and permanently remove the risk of harm from the home. FDA continues to work with and encourage the manufacturers of these medicines to develop alternative, safe disposal systems.
All other expired, unwanted, or unused medicines should be disposed of by using a medicine take-back program, if available, or by throwing them away in the household trash.
Does flushing the medicines on the list down the toilet or sink drain pose a risk to human health and the environment?
We are aware of recent reports that have noted trace amounts of medicines in the water system. The majority of medicines found in the water system are a result of the body’s natural routes of drug elimination (in urine or feces). Scientists, to date, have found no evidence of harmful effects to human health from medicines in the environment.
Disposal of these select, few medicines by flushing contributes only a small fraction of the total amount of medicine found in the water. When a medicine take-back program isn’t available, FDA believes that any potential risk to people and the environment from flushing this small, select list of medicines is outweighed by the real possibility of life-threatening risks from accidental ingestion of these medicines.
MEDICINES RECOMMENDED FOR DISPOSAL BY FLUSHING
This list from FDA tells you what expired, unwanted, or unused medicines you should flush down the sink or toilet to help prevent danger to people and pets in the home. Flushing these medicines will get rid of them right away and help keep your family and pets safe.
FDA continually evaluates medicines for safety risks and will update the list as needed.
|Abstral, tablets (sublingual)||Fentanyl|
|Actiq, oral transmucosal lozenge *||Fentanyl Citrate|
|Avinza, capsules (extended release)||Morphine Sulfate|
|Daytrana, transdermal patch system||Methylphenidate|
|Demerol, tablets *||Meperidine Hydrochloride|
|Demerol, oral solution *||Meperidine Hydrochloride|
|Diastat/Diastat AcuDial, rectal gel||Diazepam|
|Dilaudid, tablets *||Hydromorphone Hydrochloride|
|Dilaudid, oral liquid *||Hydromorphone Hydrochloride|
|Dolophine Hydrochloride, tablets *||Methadone Hydrochloride|
|Duragesic, patch (extended release) *||Fentanyl|
|Embeda, capsules (extended release)||Morphine Sulfate; Naltrexone Hydrochloride|
|Exalgo, tablets (extended release)||Hydromorphone Hydrochloride|
|Fentora, tablets (buccal)||Fentanyl Citrate|
|Kadian, capsules (extended release)||Morphine Sulfate|
|Methadone Hydrochloride, oral solution *||Methadone Hydrochloride|
|Methadose, tablets *||Methadone Hydrochloride|
|Morphine Sulfate, tablets (immediate release) *||Morphine Sulfate|
|Morphine Sulfate, oral solution *||Morphine Sulfate|
|MS Contin, tablets (extended release) *||Morphine Sulfate|
|Nucynta ER, tablets (extended release)||Tapentadol|
|Onsolis, soluble film (buccal)||Fentanyl Citrate|
|Opana, tablets (immediate release)||Oxymorphone Hydrochloride|
|Opana ER, tablets (extended release)||Oxymorphone Hydrochloride|
|Oramorph SR, tablets (sustained release)||Morphine Sulfate|
|Oxecta, tablets (immediate release)||Oxycodone Hydrochloride|
|Oxycodone Hydrochloride, capsules||Oxycodone Hydrochloride|
|Oxycodone Hydrochloride, oral solution||Oxycodone Hydrochloride|
|Oxycontin, tablets (extended release) *||Oxycodone Hydrochloride|
|Percocet, tablets *||Acetaminophen; Oxycodone Hydrochloride|
|Percodan, tablets *||Aspirin; Oxycodone Hydrochloride|
|Xyrem, oral solution||Sodium Oxybate|
*These medicines have generic versions available or are only available in generic formulations.
List revised: January 2012
Consumers are advised to check their local laws and ordinances to make sure medicines can legally be disposed of with their household trash.