Disposal of Prescription Medications in the Community
April 30, 2015
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released guidelines in February 2007 for patients to properly dispose of prescription drugs, developed jointly with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency. These guidelines are intended to reduce drug diversion, prevent accidental ingestion by children or animals, and minimize effects on the environment.
The guidelines recommend using community medication take-back programs to dispose of most prescription drugs. If no medication take-back program is available, dispose of prescription drugs in the trash, after first mixing the medications with an undesirable substance (eg, coffee grounds, cat litter) and sealing the mixture in a plain container.
Flushing down the toilet is recommended only for a select few medications. Although these “flushable” medications are effective and safe when taken as prescribed, they are potentially fatal in single doses if taken by someone other than the intended patient (eg, children, pets). The known risks of serious toxicity from accidental ingestion outweigh the potential risks of flushing these medications (eg, exposure of people or the environment to trace amounts in water). Examples of “Flushable” medications include buprenorphine, fentanyl, meperidine, and oxycodone products. Visit http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/
EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm#Flushing_list for a complete list of “Flushable” medications.
Additional disposal tips include:
- Get rid of any personal information from medicine containers. This will protect your privacy.
- Never give prescription medications to family or friends. Drugs do not cause the same effects in all patients, and a drug that is safe and effective for you may be harmful to someone else.
- Ask your pharmacist if you have any other disposal questions.
There are several locations throughout the state where residents may drop off unwanted drugs. Visit http://useonlyasdirected.org/drop-off-locator/ to find drop off sites in your area.
Additional information is available at the following links:
- Utah Proper Medication Disposal Web Page:
- Permanent Community Collections Sites in Utah:
- FDA website: Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know
- FDA website: How to Dispose of Unused Medicines:
- FDA website: Medicines Recommended for Disposal by Flushing:
- FDA Consumer Guide:
April 30, 2015; April 28, 2014; April 14, 2014; September 6, 2011; October 19, 2009; September 10, 2009; October 14, 2008; October 20, 2008; July 1, 2008; March 18, 2008; September 26, 2007; May 16, 2007; April 17, 2007; University of Utah, Drug Information Service. Copyright 2009, Drug Information Service, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.