Updated April 2023
Patients frequently ask our practitioners about the safest way to get rid of unwanted prescription drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, so we curated a list of disposal tips from the FDA, DEA, and other sources.
Pharmacy Disposal Kiosks
Taking your unwanted prescription drugs to a pharmacy with a self-serve disposal kiosk should be your first option, if it is convenient for you. Fortunately, there are several pharmacies in our area that offer this service. Each pharmacy has its own policy regarding the types of prescription (and OTC) drugs it collects.
Remington Drug (Remington, VA) — This independent pharmacy does not have an actual disposal kiosk, but the pharmacists will gladly accept any type of unwanted prescription drugs that aren’t on the DEA’s list of controlled substances, including pills, tablets, ointments, patches, liquids, aerosols, and inhalers.
CVS Pharmacy (Warrenton, Culpeper, Gainesville, Haymarket, and Bristow, VA) — This chain of pharmacies accepts any type of prescription drug, including controlled substances and liquids. They will not, however, accept aerosols and inhalers. Refer to CVS's Safer Communities page for details and their most up-to-date disposal policy.
Walgreens Pharmacy — The Walgreens Pharmacy in Warrenton, VA offers a disposal kiosk and accepts a wide range of medications to include controlled substances, liquids, aerosols, and inhalers. The other Walgreens locations in our area (Culpeper, Haymarket, Bealeton, Gainesville, and Bristow, VA) do not offer a disposal kiosk but provide at-home medication disposal packets upon request. Visit Walgreens’ Safe Medication Disposal page for details.
Many police and sheriff’s departments will also accept unused prescription drugs throughout the year at their offices (we are currently compiling a list).
Drug Take-Back Day
You can also drop off your prescription medications at the semiannual Drug Take-Back Day event. In coordination with local law enforcement, this Drug Enforcement Administration program allows residents to relinquish prescription drugs at easily-accessible collection sites. The next DEA take-back event is scheduled for Saturday, April 22, and there are several collection sites in our area.
Drugs in liquid form are not accepted at the Drug Take-Back events.
When a take-back option is not available, the FDA recommends flushing specific drugs — primarily opioids — as soon as they are no longer needed. To determine if a drug is flushable, refer to the product labeling, check the FDA’s Flush List, or follow your physician’s advice. Keeping these medications out of the hands of other people who might abuse them outweighs any potential environmental hazard they might create, according to the FDA.
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. 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.