Medicine: Proper Disposal

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You may have medicines at home that have expired or are no longer needed. You will need to know how to throw the medicine away correctly.

Before you throw away the drug container, remove personal information, like the prescription label, to protect your identity and prevent illegal refills.

Prescription Take-back ProgramsAsk your pharmacist or doctor any questions you have about medicines.

The best way to get rid of unneeded medicine is through a drug take-back program. Many law enforcement agencies take back unneeded medicine. Contact your local law enforcement to see if they take back medicines or check for a list of locations. Nationwide Children’s Hospital Pharmacy locations have drug take-back bins, too. If you have any questions, please ask your child’s doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Disposal of Pills

Medicine can be disposed of at home if you are unable to use a take-back program. Put all the leftover medicine in a sealable plastic bag and add enough water or rubbing alcohol to dissolve the medicine. Add some unwanted material, like coffee grounds or kitty litter. Throw it away in the trash where children and pets cannot reach it.

Disposal of Liquid Medicines, Eye Drops, Ear Drops, and Nose Sprays

Mix the leftover medicine with an unwanted material, like coffee grounds or kitty litter. Then, put the mixture in a container or a sealable plastic bag that will not leak. Throw the container away in the trash where children and pets cannot reach it.

Disposal of Inhaler Products

When you throw away inhalers and aerosol products, there can be:

  • negative impacts on the environment
  • a danger of fire

Please contact your local trash and recycling center to find out how to safely dispose of inhalers and aerosols. They will tell you how local regulations and laws say to get rid of these.

When to Flush Prescription Drugs

Usually, prescription medicines should not be flushed down the toilet unless the label on the container tells you to do so. If a take-back program is not available in your area, a list of medicines that can be flushed is found below.

The FDA advises to always flush narcotic medicated patches due to the risk of accidental exposure. When throwing away a medicated patch, fold the patch in half with the sticky sides together and flush down a toilet.

You should flush any drug product that contains any of the following medicines:

  • buprenorphine
  • oxycodone
  • fentanyl
  • oxymorphone
  • hydromorphone
  • tapentadol
  • meperidine
  • sodium oxybate
  • methadone
  • diazepam rectal gel
  • morphine
  • methylphenidate transdermal (Daytrana®)

Medicine Proper Disposal (PDF)

HH-V-228 ©2008, Revised 2021, Nationwide Children’s Hospital