How to Dispose of Medicine Safely
Young kids are curious about everything—even the trash. When you dispose of medicines, here’s how to keep them out of little hands.
Before discarding medicines or other health products, consider these tips for keeping kids safe.
WHAT to dispose of:
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines such as pain relievers, cough suppressants, cold remedies, and sleep aids
Other health products such as vitamins, diaper rash creams, and hand sanitizers
WHEN to dispose of medicine:
When you have expired medicine. Check the label for the expiration date.
When your family no longer needs them
WHY disposal of medication is important:
Expired medicines may not provide the treatment you or your family needs
Fewer medicines in the home means fewer safety risks
HOW to dispose of medicine safely:
For all OTC medicines and many prescriptions, safe in-home disposal is easy. Follow this 3-step process:
Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with a bad-tasting or inedible substance such as used coffee or kitty litter.
Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
Throw the sealed container in your household trash.
Community take-back days
Check out DEA.gov to find out if there is an approved medicine take-back program in your community. Take-back programs can also be sponsored by police departments, municipal buildings, or pharmacies.
Flushing down the toilet (only certain medicines)
There are a handful of medicines that should only be disposed of by flushing them down the toilet at home or through a drug take-back program. FDA.gov provides a list of these medicines and specific disposal instructions.