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The inside of a medicine cabinet with several different types of prescription pills and first aid equipment.

How to Safely Dispose of Old Medications


A recently discussed topic on downsizing might bring up other concerns. In decluttering or simply cleaning out a kitchen or bathroom medicine cabinet, we might wonder, what do I do with these old medications? There are proper and relatively specific precautions one should take to safely dispose of prescription drugs.

This should be a concern and consideration for anyone taking any sort of prescription drug. According to the DEA, most prescription drug abusers obtain the drugs without consent from the people they know. Properly disposing of old medications can help ensure someone doesn’t get their hands on them without your consent or knowledge.

So, how do I dispose of medications?

Unfortunately, the process is a bit more complicated than we might generally expect. Here are some great resources to help you learn how to get rid of those medications easily and, most importantly, in a safe and responsible manner.

A Local Pharmacy Take-Back

Pharmacies often offer take-back days where you can drop off old or unused medication. Call local pharmacies to see if and when they offer this service. This option can be great in making it routine to take back old ones when you go to pick up new ones, or if you’re running some errands. Getting in this habit will not only ensure the safety of others, but also keep your medicine cabinet clean and organized.

Use DEA and FDA Resources

The DEA has a search engine on their site you can use to find local disposal sites by entering your zip code. Also found on their website is a list of the medications they will accept.

The FDA has a great tool on their site that helps you decipher which medications you can safely flush down the toilet and which ones would damage the environment. This is helpful if you want an easy disposal.

Last Resort Standard Disposal Procedure

At last resort if you can’t figure out what to do with your medications, there is a standard procedure in place. Remove medication from designated bottle, place in a sealable container or plastic bag, and fill with kitty litter or coffee grounds. This can then be thrown in your regular trash. Again, this is considered a last resort. Look into the first two options for the best, safest and most effective means of disposal.

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