safely dispose old medicineUPDATED 4/1/2017: A laundry list of pills fill most cabinets reminding you of surgeries, infections, and illnesses. Free ways to get rid of the medicine safely.

Dangerous to keep old medicine

Keeping expired, unwanted, and unused pills around the house is a hazard to your family. Small children may get their hands on them. Also, addicted people steal painkillers.

Painkillers are a gateway drug. Many drug addicts start with painkillers. Then they move on to more potent substances.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 8 out of 10 new heroin users began using the drug after they could no longer get or afford prescription painkillers.

Having old medicine in your home puts you at risk. If someone finds out you have the pills they may try to steal them. It may be a friend or a family member who knows you have painkillers in the house. That’s why it’s important to safely dispose old medicine.

Like everything else, you may be tempted to throw old medicine in the trash. It’s a bad idea. The medicine can seep into the ground and can contaminate our drinking water and environment.

Where to safely dispose old medicine

Throughout the year, the Drug Enforcement Administration teams up with law enforcement so you can safely dispose of old medicine. They’re called “Take-Back” programs and usually take place in the fall and spring.

While there are events throughout the year, some community groups take the unwanted medicine year round. Click here to find a “take-back” program in your community.

While the DEA database is a good resource, many programs are not in that list that accept medication. Most police departments accept old medication. Call or ask around your community if you don’t see a program listed above.

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Throwing away old medicine

Throwing medicine away is not the preferred method of disposal. If it’s your only choice, take steps to throw the medicine away safely.

Mix the medicine with kitty litter, dirt, or used coffee grounds. Then place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag or other container. Now, you can throw it in the trash. Do not crush tablets or capsules.

Throwing away the medicine may not be your only option to safely dispose of old medicine.

Flushing old medicine

The Food and Drug Administration says it’s alright to flush certain medications. There is a list of old medicine that’s safe to flush. Here’s the FDA list of safe medication to flush:

Medicine Active Ingredient
Abstral (PDF – 1M), tablets (sublingual) Fentanyl
Actiq (PDF – 251KB), oral transmucosal lozenge * Fentanyl Citrate
Avinza (PDF – 51KB), capsules (extended release) Morphine Sulfate
Belbuca (PDF – 44KB), soluble film (buccal) Buprenorphine Hydrochloride
Buprenorphine Hydrochloride, tablets (sublingual) * Buprenorphine Hydrochloride
Buprenorphine Hydrochloride; Naloxone Hydrochloride, tablets (sublingual) * Buprenorphine Hydrochloride; Naloxone Hydrochloride
Butrans (PDF – 388KB), transdermal patch system Buprenorphine
Daytrana (PDF – 281KB), transdermal patch system Methylphenidate
Demerol, tablets * Meperidine Hydrochloride
Demerol, oral solution * Meperidine Hydrochloride
Diastat/Diastat AcuDial, rectal gel [for disposal
instructions: click on link, then go to “Label information”
and view current label]
Dilaudid, tablets * Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Dilaudid, oral liquid * Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Dolophine Hydrochloride (PDF – 48KB), tablets * Methadone Hydrochloride
Duragesic (PDF – 179KB), patch (extended release) * Fentanyl
Embeda (PDF – 39KB), capsules (extended release) Morphine Sulfate; Naltrexone Hydrochloride
Exalgo (PDF – 83KB), tablets (extended release) Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Fentora (PDF – 338KB), tablets (buccal) Fentanyl Citrate
Hysingla ER (PDF – 78KB) tablets (extended release) Hydrocodone Bitartrate
Kadian (PDF – 135KB), capsules (extended release) Morphine Sulfate
Methadone Hydrochloride, oral solution * Methadone Hydrochloride
Methadose, tablets * Methadone Hydrochloride
Morphabond (PDF – 162 KB), tablets (extended release) Morphine Sulfate
Morphine Sulfate, tablets (immediate release) * Morphine Sulfate
Morphine Sulfate (PDF – 282KB), oral solution * Morphine Sulfate
MS Contin (PDF – 433KB), tablets (extended release) * Morphine Sulfate
Nucynta ER (PDF – 38KB), tablets (extended release) Tapentadol
Onsolis (PDF – 297KB), soluble film (buccal) Fentanyl Citrate
Opana, tablets (immediate release) Oxymorphone Hydrochloride
Opana ER (PDF – 56KB), tablets (extended release) Oxymorphone Hydrochloride
Oxecta, tablets (immediate release) Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Oxycodone Hydrochloride, capsules Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Oxycodone Hydrochloride (PDF – 100KB), oral solution Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Oxycontin (PDF – 417KB), tablets (extended release)
Percocet, tablets * Acetaminophen; Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Percodan, tablets * Aspirin; Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Suboxone (PDF – 83KB), film (sublingual) Buprenorphine Hydrochloride; Naloxone Hydrochloride
Targiniq ER (PDF – 48KB), tablets (extended release) Oxycodone Hydrochloride; Naloxone Hydrochloride
Xartemis XR (PDF – 113KB) tablets Oxycodone Hydrochloride; Acetaminophen
Xtampza ER (PDF – 67.6KB), capsules (extended release) Oxycodone
Xyrem (PDF – 185KB), oral solution Sodium Oxybate
Zohydro ER (PDF – 90KB) capsules (extended release) Hydrocodone Bitartrate
Zubsolv (PDF – 354KB), tablets (sublingual) Buprenorphine Hydrochloride; Naloxone Hydrochloride