How to Dispose of Unused Medications Safely
Unintentional poisoning is the second leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Every day nearly 100 Americans die from unintentional poisoning and another 2,000 are treated in hospital emergency rooms. While child-proof packaging has reduced the number of children who are killed or injured by unintentional poisoning, more than 45,000 children die from unintentional poisoning every year; the majority from ingesting prescription drugs intended for another family member.
Proper disposal of prescription drugs when they are no longer needed can decrease the number of children who die or are injured after swallowing drugs prescribed for another family member. There is no reason to keep prescription drugs that you are no longer using, and they present a significant health hazard for children and pets. Safe disposal is the best way to remove the threat of unintentional poisoning.
The Centers for Disease control recommends several ways to dispose of unused medications safely and responsibly:
- Medicine Disposal Programs. Some city and county governments offer free drug disposal services. Contact your city or county government, pharmacy, hospital or local recycling center and ask about medication disposal services.
- Household Trash Disposal. Most medications in pill form can be mixed with kitty litter or coffee grounds (do not crush tablets or open capsules). After mixing with unpalatable substance, seal in a plastic bag or container and place in your household trash.
- Flushing Medicine. Some medicines are considered so dangerous when not used as prescribed that the CDC recommends flushing them down the sink or toilet to remove any chance of them being swallowed inadvertently. Many of these drugs have flushing instructions printed on their packaging. (Click here for the CDC’s list of flushable medicines.)
Information about proper drug disposal can also be found on the National Institutes for Health (NIH) drug information site DailyMed.