(Originally published on Apr. 21, 2021) — Patients frequently ask our practitioners about the proper way to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs. The most convenient — and safe — way to get rid of them is the bi-annual Drug Take-Back Day. The next take-back event for 2021 is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Organized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement offices, this program allows residents to relinquish prescription drugs at conveniently-located collection sites. Tablets, capsules, patches, and other solid forms of prescription drugs are accepted. Liquids, syringes, needles, and illegal drugs (schedule I) are not accepted.
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Drug collection sites in our area include:
Visit the DEA’s Collection Site Locator for details or to search for other locations.
If you are unable to take advantage of this program, there are some area drop-off locations that accept unused prescription drugs year-round. The types of medications they accept may be limited, so you may want to call them first before you go.
If you live outside of our service area, you can search for other year-round pharmaceutical disposal locations closer to your home.
Home Disposal Methods
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration provides guidance on home disposal methods when drug take-back programs or drop-off locations are not an option.
You can simply flush drugs down the toilet if they are included on the FDA Flush List. Some medications, such as fentanyl patches, may actually come with specific instructions to be flushed immediately when no longer needed.
Medicines not on the flush list can be thrown in the trash. The FDA recommends using a resealable container or zip-top bag to mix the pills, liquids, drops, patches, or creams with an undesirable substance such as kitty litter, sawdust, dirt, or used coffee grounds before tossing them.
For the packaging, remember to scratch out or black out any personal information on the drug label before throwing in the trash.
Sharps should be safely disposed of using a sharps disposal container or a strong plastic container filled no more than 3/4 full. Very small sharps or those that retract after use should be treated like all other sharps. For more information, read the FDA’s Dos and Don’ts of Proper Sharps Disposal.
If you received specific disposal instructions from your healthcare provider, you should follow those instructions.