How do I dispose of medication?

Drugs and Our Water Supply

Pharmaceutical drugs that are flushed can contaminate ground and surface waters through leachate. The Citizens Campaign for the Environment reported that studies have shown pharmaceutical drugs have been detected in drinking water supplies of 41 million Americans.

“This emerging issue is a threat to public health, wildlife, and our natural environment.” – CCE, Oct 22, 2013

In 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) developed the first consumer guidance for proper disposal of prescription drugs. The first recommendation is to take advantage of drug “Take Back” programs in your community. Where no program is available, the FDA has published guidelines for drug disposal. In summary:

1) Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label. Do NOT flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.

2) Where there is no “Take Back” program, or disposal instructions, throw the drugs in your household trash, but first:

  • Take them out of their original container and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or cat litter.
  • Put them in a resealable bag, empty can or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  • Before throwing out the container, scratch out all identifying information on the label.

You may also seek the advice from your pharmacist.

To find the nearest “Take Back” program near you, visit the DEA, Office of Diversion Control.  For the complete FDA guidelines, “How to Dispose of Unused Medications“, visit the FDA, Consumer Health Information,

Information provided on this website and in the Doctor’s Blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Please consult your health care professional for evaluation of your individual case.

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