Are Unused Medications in Your Home a Hidden Danger? 

Proper disposal is the key for safety.

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Is there leftover medicine lingering in your home? If so, there’s a good reason to clear it out: If the wrong person finds it — like a curious child, a pet or someone who might misuse it — that drug could be dangerous.

Here’s a look at three safe ways to send old meds packing:

Use a drug take-back service. Many cities have their own take-back programs. These are often the least risky way to dispose of old or unwanted medicines. You can check with your local police department to see if it sponsors a program.


There may also be a drop-off site or mail-back program at your local pharmacy.

Search for local take-back programs.

Toss it in the trash. This can be a good option if there’s no take-back program near you. Most medicines can be tossed out. But it’s a good idea to follow these steps first:

Scratch out any personal information on pill bottles or other packaging.

Mix the drug with something unappealing, like kitty litter, sawdust or used coffee grounds.

Place it in a small, sealed bag.

Throw it into the household trash.


Send it down the toilet. A small number of medicines — such as powerful pain drugs — should be flushed down the toilet. These medicines can be fatal in just one dose if they’re misused. That’s why flushing them is a must if you can’t find a take-back program near you. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the risk to the environment is small compared to the risk of these medicines getting into the wrong hands.

To find out if your medicine should be flushed:

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Read the instructions that came with the package.

See this list of flushable meds.

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