It is important to get rid of expired and unused medicine safely. They can be harmful to someone they aren't prescribed for, especially children. Or someone might misuse them. And getting rid of them improperly can cause them to end up in the water supply, affecting both humans and wildlife. There are several ways you can properly get rid of medicines, like epinephrine auto-injectors, inhalers, and prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
How Can I Dispose of Prescription Patches and Pills?
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Each April and October, certain law enforcement agencies across the U.S. will allow you to drop off expired and unused prescription pills and patches so they can be safely disposed.
Use the Collection Site Locator to find an agency near you that is participating in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
The agencies will only take pills, tablets, capsules, patches or other solid forms of prescription medicines. They cannot take needles, sharps, inhalers, liquids, or illegal drugs. This includes liquid nebulizer medicine and epinephrine auto-injectors.
Some pharmacy chains have medicines drop boxes in many locations, such as Walgreens and CVS. Check with your local pharmacy location to find out what types of medicines they accept.
How Can I Dispose of Epinephrine Auto-Injectors and Devices?
To dispose of epinephrine auto-injectors or needles, visit safeneedledisposal.org. Search by state to find where you can take these for safe disposal.
How Can I Dispose of Liquid Medicines?
Ask your pharmacy for ways to dispose of liquid medicines, like children's antihistamines and nebulizer medicines. Walgreens also accepts liquid medicines.
How Can I Dispose of Inhalers?
To dispose of inhalers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you read "handling instructions on the labeling of inhalers and aerosol products. These products could be dangerous if punctured or thrown into a fire or incinerator. To properly dispose of these products and follow local regulations and laws, contact your trash and recycling facility."
Some Walgreens locations accept inhalers, but this varies by location. Contact your local Walgreens to confirm if they accept inhalers.
Other options for disposal may include the local health department, police or fire department, pharmacies, and trash and recycling facilities. Please contact the facility before visiting. Verify if they accept inhalers, as well as any procedures for disposal.
How Can I Dispose of OTC Medicines?
You can take your OTC medicines to Walgreens and CVS.
You can also get rid of OTC medicines safely at home if you follow the right steps. According to knowyourotcs.org, follow these steps:
- Mix medicines with an unpleasant substance, like kitty litter or used coffee grounds. Do not crush tablets or capsules.
- Place the mix in a container, such as a sealed plastic bag.
- Throw the container in your trash.
The FDA has more information on how to safely dispose of medicines.
Updated October 2022