Learning About Getting Rid of Medicines Safely

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Why is it important to get rid of old or unwanted medicines?

It's important to get rid of your medicines when you no longer need to take them. You should also get rid of expired medicine.

An expired medicine is past its "use by" or "discard by" date. It may not work as well. And it may no longer be safe to use.

Make sure to get rid of medicine safely. Doing so can help prevent other people, or even animals, from using medicines that aren't meant for them. That could cause serious problems. This is especially important if you have small children or teens in the house.

How can you get rid of your medicines?

Here are a few ways you can get rid of medicines safely. If you have any questions about your old or unwanted medicines, ask a pharmacist for help.

  • Check the label on the bottle or box.

    The label may tell you how to get rid of the medicine safely. You can also look at any information that came with the bottle or box.

  • Bring the medicine to a take-back program or drop-off box.
    • Find out if your local pharmacy or hospital offers a take-back program or a place to drop off medicine. Some local police or sheriff's offices may also have a drop-off box.
  • Put most kinds of medicines in the trash safely.

    If there isn't a take-back program or drop-off box near you, follow these steps to throw away most kinds of medicine with the rest of your garbage.

    1. Take it out of the container it came in.

      You can throw that container away. But first scratch out any personal information printed on the label. This will help protect your identity and health information.

    2. Mix the medicine with a substance that doesn't taste good. You might use cat litter, sawdust, or coffee grounds.

      Don't crush tablets or capsules.

    3. Place the mixture in some other container. You might use a sealed plastic bag or can.
    4. Put that container in your household trash.
  • For certain medicines that can harm others, flush them down the sink or toilet.
    • Only a few medicines should be flushed down the sink or toilet if you can't use a take-back program or drop-off box. These include prescription pain medicines, such as oxycodone or morphine.
    • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that these kinds of medicines can be more harmful to other people. They can also make pets or other animals sick. So it's best to flush old or unwanted doses of these medicines down the sink or toilet right away. When you do this, you take away any chance that a person or an animal might get sick from one of these medicines.
    • To see a list of medicines that should be flushed down the sink or toilet, go to www.FDA.gov and search for "unused medicine disposal."

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.




The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.