Ditch, Dump or Donate

How to Dispose of Unused Medications
Medication Safety Officer, Department of Pharmacy, Roswell Park
Friday, May 20, 2016 - 3:39pm

When you no longer need a medication, it’s best to dispose of it as safely as possible. Keeping unused medications, especially those prescribed for cancer treatment or pain, can be particularly dangerous, posing a risk for unintentional use, overdose, or abuse.

  • Follow specific instructions on the label. Or, use the guidelines outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Take unused prescriptions to an authorized collector. These sites may include law enforcement locations and retail, hospital or clinic pharmacies. Check this list for locations in Erie County that take back medications and/or syringes.
  • Use a mail-back program. Some pharmacies can provide a special mail-back envelope in which unused prescriptions may be sent through the U.S. mail to be disposed of properly.
  • Bring to a take-back collection site. The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration sponsors national prescription drug take-back days every six months, with collection sites at local police and fire departments, community health centers and hospitals.
  • Never flush oral chemotherapy drugs. Take to a drug collection site.
  • Flush some medicines down a drain or toilet. For some medication, it’s best to flush them as soon as possible because of the danger they pose to others, especially children and pets. These include fentanyl patches and opioid pain medications. Click here for a list of medications recommended for flushing.
  • Dispose in household trash following these guidelines: Mix (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds; place in container or sealed plastic bag; Throw container in household trash. Be sure to scratch out all personal information on the prescription label to make it unreadable, and dispose.
  • Questions? Contact the FDA at 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).