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How to Properly Throw Out Prescription Drugs

Before You Dispose Your Prescription Drugs...


Updated July 08, 2009

Did you know that the federal government has guidelines for throwing out prescription drugs that may help curb drug abuse, accidental overdose, and protect U.S. water sources? Guidelines recommend:

  • Remove drugs from original container. By removing unwanted, unused, or expired medicine from its original container, you are ensuring that medicine will not fall in the wrong hands. Orange prescription bottles are easily recognizable and can be stolen from garbage cans and landfills.

  • Mix drugs with undesirable refuse and throw in garbage. Guidelines suggest mixing medications with items like used coffee grinds or cat litter and placing them in a sealed bag, empty can, or jar. Throw container in trash can. This extra step can prevent accidental overdose by children and pets and also possible drug theft.

  • Take drugs to pharmacy for safe disposal. Many pharmacies accept unwanted prescription drugs for safe disposal. If not, call your local health department or hospital pharmacy and ask if they will accept your medicine.

  • Do not flush old prescription drugs down the toilet. Unless otherwise stated on the label or in the drug information pamphlet given to you by your pharmacist, do not flush unwanted prescription medication down the toilet. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently researching how prescription drugs affect U.S. waterways.
For more information on new disposal guidelines, visit the Office of National Drug Control Policy.


"Federal Government Issues New Guidelines for Proper Disposal of Prescription Drugs." 20 FEB 2007. Office of National Drug Control Policy. 22 Feb 2007

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