Chances are you, or your loved who you are caring for, has some old, unused, or expired medications in your medicine cabinet or drawer. It is necessary to pay attention to the expiration dates on all medications as the chemical composition of the medication could have changed or the medicine simply becomes less effective making it unsafe to take, especially when you're counting on the medicines to do what they're supposed to. Whether it's prescription medication or over the counter medication, there is a right way to dispose of expired medications.
The best way to dispose of medication is to take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government's household trash and recycling service to see when a take-back program is available in your community. For San Diego, you can drop off your medicines anytime at select San Diego County Sheriff's offices as they have a Prescription Drop Off Box at many of the Sheriff's offices -- Visit the San Diego County Sheriff's Website to find the nearest location near you.
If your community does not offer these Medicine Take Back Programs, please do not flush your medicines down the toilet -- some sewage treatment systems are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals and medications and therefore can get into your water supply!
Instead, the FDA recommends to throw the drugs in the household trash following these steps:
- Remove them from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter (this makes the drug less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs).
- Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
- Before throwing out a medicine container, scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.
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. Do your part to organize your medicine cabinet, and dispose of old or unused medicine properly.