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How to dispose of unused medicines

Disposing of medication

Medicines play an important role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when they are no longer needed it’s important to dispose of them properly to avoid harm to others.

The Food and Drug Administration has developed a list of disposal options and some special disposal instructions for you to consider when throwing out expired, unwanted, or unused medicines.

Medicine Take-Back Programs
Medicine take-back programs for disposal are a good way to remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from the home and reduce the chance that others may accidentally take the medicine. Contact your city or county government's household trash and recycling service to see if there is a medicine take-back program in your community and learn about any special rules regarding which medicines can be taken back. You can also talk to your pharmacist to see if he or she knows of other medicine disposal programs in your area.

Disposal in Household Trash
If no medicine take-back program is available in your area, consumers can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

  • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds;
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag; and
  • Throw the container in your household trash

Flushing of Certain Medicines
There is a small number of medicines that may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal in a single dose if they are used by someone other than the person to which the medicine was prescribed. For this reason, a few medicines have specific disposal instructions that indicate they should be flushed down the sink or toilet when they are no longer needed and when they cannot be disposed of through a drug take-back program. When you dispose of these medicines down the sink or toilet, they cannot be accidently used by children, pets, or anyone else.

Medicines recommended for disposal by flushing
This list from the FDA tells you what expired, unwanted, or unused medicines you should flush down the sink or toilet to help prevent danger to people and pets in the home. Flushing these medicines will get rid of them right away and help keep your family and pets safe.

FDA continually evaluates medicines for safety risks and will update the list as needed.

Medicine Active Ingredient
Abstral, tablets (sublingual) Fentanyl
Actiq, oral transmucosal lozenge * Fentanyl Citrate
Avinza, capsules (extended release) Morphine Sulfate
Daytrana, transdermal patch system Methylphenidate
Demerol, tablets * Meperidine Hydrochloride
Demerol, oral solution * Meperidine Hydrochloride
Diastat/Diastat AcuDial, rectal gel Diazepam
Dilaudid, tablets * Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Dilaudid, oral liquid * Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Dolophine Hydrochloride, tablets * Methadone Hydrochloride
Duragesic, patch (extended release) * Fentanyl
Embeda, capsules (extended release) Morphine Sulfate; Naltrexone Hydrochloride
Exalgo, tablets (extended release) Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Fentora, tablets (buccal) Fentanyl Citrate
Kadian, capsules (extended release) Morphine Sulfate
Methadone Hydrochloride, oral solution * Methadone Hydrochloride
Methadose, tablets * Methadone Hydrochloride
Morphine Sulfate, tablets (immediate release) * Morphine Sulfate
Morphine Sulfate, oral solution * Morphine Sulfate
MS Contin, tablets (extended release) * Morphine Sulfate
Nucynta ER, tablets (extended release) Tapentadol
Onsolis, soluble film (buccal) Fentanyl Citrate
Opana, tablets (immediate release) Oxymorphone Hydrochloride
Opana ER, tablets (extended release) Oxymorphone Hydrochloride
Oramorph SR, tablets (sustained release) Morphine Sulfate
Oxecta, tablets (immediate release) Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Oxycodone Hydrochloride, capsules Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Oxycodone Hydrochloride, oral solution Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Oxycontin, tablets (extended release) * Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Percocet, tablets * Acetaminophen; Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Percodan, tablets * Aspirin; Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Xyrem, oral solution Sodium Oxybate

*These medicines have generic versions available or are only available in generic formulations.