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Medication Disposal Tips for Your Old or Unused Medicines

Service members at medical group pharmacy table

Getting rid of old or unused medicine is a tricky issue. Throwing it in the trash might pose a risk to a child or pet that finds it, and flushing it might hurt the environment. Keeping it “just in case” or for another time isn’t safe either, as expired meds don’t work as well and can even be harmful. Keep your family and community safe by cleaning out your medicine cabinet periodically. Take the following steps.

  • Read the medication’s label or the patient information that comes with it to see if there are disposal instructions. Don’t stray from those instructions; follow them strictly.
  • Take the medicines to a local drug collection or take-back program if your unused medications have no disposal instructions. Contact local law enforcement for an authorized site near you or find the nearest drug disposal location.
  • Follow the FDA’s simple steps for throwing most medications away in household trash if no authorized take-back site is in your area. Don’t throw the medicine away as is; instead, mix the medicine with coffee grounds before tossing it out.
  • Check the FDA’s authorized list of medications that can be flushed down the sink or toilet. Don’t flush any medicine not on the approved list.
  • Remember, these disposal methods can apply to over-the-counter drugs, too. Don’t think of over-the-counter medications as less important than prescription drugs. Treat them all the same when it comes to safe disposal.

Visit the Drug Enforcement Administration to learn more about drug disposal, national take-back events and locations of authorized collectors in your area, or contact Military OneSource if you’d like additional information on safe storage and disposal of prescription medications.

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