Spring cleaning: The medicine cabinet edition

How to safely get rid of unused or expired medications

Getting rid of unused or expired medications and prescriptions often leaves us scratching our heads on how to dispose of them, especially if they are painkillers or narcotics.

Similar to disposing of paint, electronics or batteries, there’s a proper way to dispose of medications, too. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers safe ways to clean out the medicine cabinet while keeping your family members safe.

Drug Take Back Day

Dispose of your unwanted prescription medications on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Saturday, April 27, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


The household trashcan

You can throw medication in the trash if you do it properly: Mix the medicine with a nonfood or harsh substance, such as dirt, kitty litter or used coffee grounds. Combine them in a plastic bag or disposable container, then throw away. When recycling or throwing away your pill bottle, remove the label or scratch out your personal information on it.

Drug take-back programs

Retail, law enforcement or hospital locations within your community may offer drug disposal drop-offs, and some offer mail-back programs. The best thing to do is visit the <a

href=”https://takebackday.dea.gov/”>Drug Enforcement Agency’s Drug Takeback website to find an authorized location that provides this service in your community.


Scientists have found no evidence of harmful effects to our health from medicines coming in contact with water sources or the environment. Therefore, flushing medications down the toilet or sink is acceptable, if you have no other option. A list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing can be found here.

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