Disposal of Prescription Medications in the Community - Federal Guidelines
September 6, 2011
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released new guidelines in February 2007 for patients to properly dispose prescription drugs, developed jointly with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency. The new 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 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). “Flushable” medications include:
- Diazepam rectal gel (Diastat, Diastat AcuDial);
- Fentanyl: buccal soluble films (Onsolis), buccal tablets (Fentora), oral transmucosal lozenges (Actiq, generic), and transdermal patches (Duragesic, generic);
- Hydromorphone: extended release tablets (Exalgo), oral liquid (generic), and tablets (Dilaudid, generic);
- Meperidine hydrochloride: oral solution (generic) and tablets (Demerol, generic);
- Methadone hydrochloride: oral solution (Methadose, generic) and tablets (Dolophine, Methadose, generic);
- Methylphenidate transdermal (Daytrana);
- Morphine sulfate: extended-release capsules (Avinza, Kadian), extended-release tablets (MS Contin, Oramorph SR, generic), immediate-release tablets (generic), and oral solution (generic);
- Morphine / naltrexone extended-release capsules (Embeda);
- Oxycodone hydrochloride: extended-release tablets (Oxycontin, generic);
- Oxycodone hydrochloride / acetaminophen tablets (Percocet, Roxicet, generic);
- Oxycodone hydrochloride / aspirin tablets (Percodan, generic)
- Oxymorphone: extended-release tablets (Opana ER) and immediate-release tablets (Opana)
- Sodium oxybate oral solution (Xyrem);
- Other medications whose package insert or patient information recommends this disposal method.
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.
Salt Lake City and surrounding areas have several available locations where residents may drop off drugs for incineration. Hours vary by location, but most sites are only available during normal business hours (8AM - 5PM Monday through Friday):
- Bountiful City: Bountiful Police Department (805 South Main Street, Bountiful)
- Cottonwood Heights: Police Station (1265 East Fort Union Boulevard)
- Herriman: Herriman Precinct (13272 South 5600 West)
- Holladay: Holladay Precinct (4570 South 2300 East)
- Kaysville: Kaysville City Police Department (58 East 100 North, Kaysville)
- Kearns: Kearns Precinct (4250 West 5414 South)
- Layton: Layton City Police Department (429 North Wasatch Boulevard, Layton)
- Magna: Magna Precinct (8537 West 2700 South)
- Midvale City: Police Department (7912 South Main Street)
- Millcreek: Millcreek Precinct (1580 East 3900 South, Suite 100)
- Murray City: Police Department (5052 South State Street)
- Riverton: Riverton Precinct (1274 West 12700 South)
- Salt Lake City: Pioneer District Police Station (700 South 1040 West) and the Public Safety Building (315 East 200 South)
- Sandy: Sandy City Police Department (10000 Centennial Parkway)
- South Salt Lake City: Police Station (2835 South Main Street)
- Taylorsville City: Police Department (2600 West 5320 South)
Medications may also be dropped off at household hazardous waste collection events in some areas. Salt Lake Valley residents may drop off medications at the following events from April through September, from 7AM - 10AM on the specified day.
- Second Thursday of each month: Sandy Public Works (8775 South 700 West)
- Third Thursday of each month: Holladay City (4626 South 2300 East)
- Fourth Thursday of each month: Garden Center at the North entrance of Sugar House Park (1602 East 2100 South)
- Note: no events are scheduled for October through March.
Additional information is available at the following links:
- Utah Proper Medication Disposal Web Page:
- Permanent Community Collections Sites in Utah:
- FDA website: How to Dispose of Unused Medicines:
- FDA website: Disposal by Flushing of Certain Unused Medicines: What You Should Know:
- FDA Consumer Guide:
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.