Ask a CHOC Doc: How Can I Properly Dispose of Old Prescriptions?

Question: How can I safely dispose of old prescriptions my  family doesn’t need to take anymore? -Anonymous


Expired or unused medications should be removed from the home as quickly as possible to help reduce the chance that someone may accidentally take them. There are several ways to get rid of old prescriptions.

  • Medicine take-back options – this is the preferred way to safely dispose of most types of unneeded medications. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where temporary collection sites are set up in communities for safe disposal of prescription medications. Another option is to drop your medications off in a drop-box at a DEA-registered collector, which safely and securely collects and disposes of medications. For more information, visit National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day or DEA-registered collector to find an event or collection site near you.
  • Disposal in the household trash – If there are no specific instructions in the package insert, you can follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the trash.
    • Pour unwanted or expired medications out of their original containers into a zip baggie.
    • Pour hot water (over 110OF – about as hot as a cup of coffee) into the baggie.
    • Insert kitty litter or another inedible product such as dirt or used coffee grounds into the baggie. Seal baggie. Place in trash bin.
    • Remove all personal information on the prescription label or empty pill bottles. Shred them or use a black marker to cross out label information.
  • Don’t throw unused or expired medications down the drain or toilet.

-Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

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