How Can I Dispose Of Outdated Medicine Safely?


This question arises periodically in doctor’s offices when patients ask about using prior pain medication prescriptions left over from old injuries. There are many unused and outdated bottles of drugs and prescriptions in medicine cabinets in our homes. As drugs age, potency of the medicine is lost. Unfortunately, there remains a danger to all of society if you choose to dispose of these medications improperly. DO NOT flush the medications down the toilet nor throw them away in the garbage without reading the following information. This article addresses some suggestions for safe disposal of outdated prescriptions.


Why Should We Be Concerned About Drug Disposal?


Small traces of some medications have been found in the water supply. The drug manufacturers and the Federal Drug Administration have been working to minimize this potential problem. In addition to this concern, proper drug disposal is important for the following reasons:
  • Child Safety – Toxic effects on children if drugs are taken by mistake or because of curiosity.

  • Young Adults – Potential for experimentation and illicit use as well as providing drugs to friends with the potential for adverse effects.

  • Adults – Taking medication prescribed for someone else may result in serious side effects or complications.

  • Pets – Inadvertently consuming medications that have been spilled on the floor can result in danger to the animal. The human medication dosage in one tablet or capsule can be fatal to a pet.

  • Environmental Concerns – Potential contamination of our drinking water. The debate continues of whether or not this is having a negative effect on the population. Researchers have found traces of medications in our lakes and streams.


Disposal Of Unused Drugs


There are several methods for proper disposal of unused medications. Some recommended methods include:
  • Your Family Physician – May be aware of locations or methods for proper disposal of your particular type of medicine.

  • Community Programs – Police, county sheriff’s departments or community recycling services may collect unused or outdated medications. Check with your city or county information centers.

  • Pharmacist – Checking with your pharmacist or pharmacy may provide you with disposal centers or other options.

  • Prescription Label – The label may have printed instructions for proper disposal.

  • Household Waste – There are medications that may be safely disposed of in household trash. It is your responsibility to learn which may or may not be safe.

  • Flushing – Some medications may be safely flushed away in the toilet. Manufacturers and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) have been working on potential contamination issues. The FDA has published a list of acceptable medications that can be disposed of by flushing down the toilet.


How Should I Dispose Of Household Medications?


It is your responsibility to check your local laws to make sure medicines can be disposed of in the household waste. Before disposing of any medications, remove the label from the container or scratch off the information so it is not readable. There should be no identifying items on the bottle. This technique protects your identify and privacy. Some additional suggestions for these medications that can be disposed of in the home are:
  • Put the medications in a plastic bag with another waste substance such as vegetable and fruit peels. Coffee grounds and kitty litter have also been suggested as mixing agents. This can be safely put in the household trash.

  • Flush those medications that can be acceptably disposed of by this method.


The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office understand the importance of following your medical physician’s instructions for the use of medication. When your pain, illness or condition has resolved, it’s your duty to properly dispose of unused or outdated medications.


For a natural approach to neck, back or extremity pain without the use of medication, please contact our office at (763) 755-4300


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