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How to Dispose of Your Medications Safely

Don't know what to do with expired medications? Find out how to dispose of them properly.

 Pills Blog

Why dispose of unused medications?

When you take prescription medication as your doctor directs, you usually take it until all the pills are gone. However, if your doctor changes your dose, decides on a different medication, or prescribes a few extra pills, you may have medication left over. You may also have a medicine cabinet full of expired prescription and over-the-counter medication that you no longer use.

How to get rid of medications safely

Here’s how to dispose of your leftover medications:

  • Drop them off at a drug collection site. Find a local collection site here.
  • Check with your police department to see if they have a drug collection program

If you don’t have a drug collection site near you, follow these steps to dispose of medications in your home trash:

  • Pour medications from the bottles into a sealable bag. Remove or mark out any personal information from the bottles. Then throw the bottles away—or recycle them if you have a recycling program in your area.
  • Crush the pills or capsules in the bag. You may add a little water to make it easier.
  • Mix in something unappetizing such as kitty litter, coffee grounds, or dirt. This will help keep children or pets from eating the mixture.
  • Seal the plastic bag and put it in the trash.

Related: What You Need to Know about Opioids

How NOT to dispose of medications

Many people aren’t aware of this, but most medications should NOT be poured down the sink, flushed down the toilet, or thrown directly in the trash in their original packaging. Small amounts of medication can enter the water system when medication is poured down the sink or flushed down the toilet, even if the water is treated.

Children or pets can find bottles of pills when they are thrown in the trash. They can also be found by thieves who go through trash cans to find pain medication or get your personal information from the bottles.


“Leftover Medications: How to Dispose of Them Safely.” Intermountain Healthcare, Jul. 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2016. <https://intermountainhealthcare.org/ext/Dcmnt?ncid=520894281>


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The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

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Post Author

Sandy Patton

Sandy is a Marketing Communications Specialist and has been with SelectHealth for 15 years. Her prior roles include health education and wellness coaching.