Prescription Drug Disposal: What to Do and Where to Go - Inside Rx
Woman performing yoga pose
Health Tips

Prescription Drug Disposal: What to Do and Where to Go


Over half of adults in the United States use prescription drugs. Prescription medicines are at the forefront of treatment methods for everything from mild ailments, like a cold or fever, to chronic conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. But, what happens when you have medicine left over or medicine that you’re no longer using?

One of the most important aspects of prescription drugs is not just taking them—it’s getting rid of them and disposing of them properly and safely. That way you’re not causing harm to the environment or others around you that may come across your unused medication. You shouldn’t be flushing all your unwanted medicines down the toilet.

Drug Take-Back Events and Programs

There may be several events or programs in your area that will take your unused medicines and dispose of them for you. You can check with your county’s trash and recycling organization to see if they have any drug take-back sites around you. Some counties host events where they will specifically collect hazardous waste materials, including prescription drugs, to dispose of.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) holds the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in communities around the nation. The aim of the event is to provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of prescription drugs while providing information and increasing awareness about proper prescription drug use. Check the DEA site to find out when this next event will be sponsored.

Prescription Drug Disposal Kiosks

Find a collection site near you that disposes of prescription drugs. You can often find a DEA authorized collector that provides a place to drop off unwanted prescription drugs throughout the year.

You can also check with your local pharmacy to see what their recommendations are for disposing of expired, unused, or unwanted medicines. Local pharmacies may have a drop-off box or kiosk to dispose of prescription drugs. Some pharmacies may also offer a mail-back program that you can participate in; you’ll be provided with an envelope that can be used for filling up with prescription drugs and mailing to the provided address for disposal.

Proper Prescription Drug Disposal at Home

Some medications can be disposed of at home, especially if drug take-back programs or events are not available or near you.

Flushing down the toilet is not recommended as a proper disposal method for many medications since flushing medications can introduce potentially toxic substances into the environment. However, it may be an appropriate way to get rid of some medicines, especially those that can be harmful to another person if found. Check your prescription drug’s label or leaflet to see if it can be flushed. Otherwise, check the flush list provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

When done right, medications can also be disposed of in the trash. Medications that come in different forms like tablets, capsules, liquids, creams, ointments, and patches can be properly thrown away in the trash. Follow these steps:

  1. Remove your prescription drugs from their bottles or original containers.
  2. Put your prescription drugs into an empty container that can be closed, such as a sealable storage bag, can, or empty tub.
  3. Add an undesirable substance that can be easily mixed with the prescription drugs, such as cat litter, dirt, or coffee grounds.
  4. Mix the prescription drugs and the undesirable substance and seal the container.
  5. Grab your empty original prescription container and scratch out or conceal any personal information.
  6. Throw away both the empty original prescription container and the container containing your prescription drugs.

Inside Rx is proud to help provide savings on prescription medications for those who are prescribed them. We take prescription drug disposal seriously and aim to help raise awareness on proper disposal processes to ensure the safety of our consumers.

For further questions and more information on proper prescription drug disposal, contact your pharmacist or healthcare provider.

Sign up for the Inside Scoop to hear about our latest news, medications and savings opportunities!

Save up to 80% on brand & generic medications.