How You Should Safely Dispose of Your Unused and Expired Medications
In order to avoid accidental consumption by other individuals or even your pets, it's crucial to properly discard your unused and/or expired medication(s). Instructions on how to safely discard medicines, including pills, syringes, and/or inhalers, are provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) below.
What happens when my medication expires?
Expired medications can be less effective or unsafe due to a change in the drug’s chemical composition or a loss in potency.
It’s possible for subpar medicines to fail to treat infections they were prescribed for, resulting in more severe diseases and the development of antibiotic resistance, which may occur when microorganisms, including bacteria or fungi, gain the capability to resist the antibiotic medications intended to eradicate them.
Certain expired medications are also susceptible to bacterial development. There is no assurance that the medication will be safe and efficient once the expiration date has elapsed.
Hence, for safety purposes, it’s not recommended to use your medication if it has expired.
Drug Take Back Program
Both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications should be safely disposed when they are no longer needed, have expired, damaged, or contaminated. The best way to dispose of unwanted medications is through a drug take-back program.
There are two take-back options:
- —DEA approved collections sites. They may be retail, hospital or pharmacies
- —DEA hosts temporary drug collection sites in communities
A national prescription drug take-back day is frequently sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and occasionally provides temporary collection locations which are set up in your local towns and cities across the U.S.
Additionally, several pharmacies feature drug disposal kiosks, and numerous local police stations have their own drug take-back programs.
To locate a program or permitted disposal facility close to you, get in touch with your local city or county government, pharmacy, or the DEA.
Don’t forget to remove your name and other personally identifiable information from the pharmaceutical labels with a permanent pen before disposing of the medication(s) in a drop-off container.
FDA’s Flush List
If you don’t have a nearby take back site, you can check if your medications is on FDA’s Flush List. Do not flush medications down the toilet unless they are on the list.
The medications on the FDA’s flush list include the following:
- Medications that are constantly pursued for their likelihood of abuse and/or misuse (drugs that have a high addiction potential).
- If used improperly, these drugs can cause death with just a single dose (commonly found with controlled substances).
Medications on the flush list are dangerous for both people and pets if they are accidentally or intentionally consumed, contacted, misused, and/or abused. Flush them down the toilet when they're no longer needed.
Medication Examples in the FDA's Flush List
- Fentanyl, including a transdermal fentanyl patch, as well as any drug that contains the word “fentanyl”
- Buprenorphine, and/or any other drug that contains the word “buprenorphine,” including Suboxone
- Any drug that contains “hydrocodone” or “benzhydrocodone,” including Norco
- Methadone, including Dolophine
- Diazepam rectal gel, as well as Diastat
FDA recognizes potential impact of flushing medication could have on the environment and drinking waters. However, it believes the known risk of accidental exposure to medications far exceeds the potential risk of flushing medications down the toilet.