How to Dispose

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Expiration dates on your medicines may be easy to overlook, but they are there for a reason. Once a medicine has reached its expiration date, it may not provide the treatment you and your family need.

Safe in-home disposal is easy for all over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and most prescription medicines.

Follow these simple steps from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to dispose of medicines in your household trash:

  1. Mix expired medicines (don’t crush tablets or capsules) with an undesirable substance like dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds.
  2. Place the mixture in a container like a zip-top or sealed plastic bag.
  3. Throw the container away in your household trash.
  4. When disposing of a prescription product, remove the label or scratch off all personal information.

All OTC medicines can be thrown away. There are a handful of prescription medicines that should only be disposed of through a drug take-back program or by flushing down the toilet. These medicines can be harmful – even in just one dose. To know which ones, go to the FDA website on ensuring safe use of medicines. Also, certain types of medication like inhalers, needles or aerosols may have specific disposal instructions. Check the label and package inserts for any specific disposal instructions and don’t flush a product unless specifically directed.

Voluntary, community drug take-back programs provide another option for medicine disposal, particularly if you have a large quantity to throw away. Drug take-back events may be hosted by a local pharmacy or law enforcement agency. Find an authorized take-back program near you at www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov.


Storing Medicines Safely in Your Home

Any medicine or vitamin can be dangerous if taken in the wrong way or by the wrong person, even OTC medicine you buy without a prescription. Follow these steps for safe storage from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  1. Store medicine in a safe location that is too high for young children to reach or see.
  2. Never leave medicines or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside, even if you have to give the medicine again in a few hours.
  3. Always relock the safety cap on a medicine bottle. If it has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the click, or you cannot twist anymore.
  4. Tell children what medicine is and why you must be the one to give it to them.
  5. Never tell children medicine is candy so they’ll take it, even if your child does not like to take his or her medicine.
  6. Remind babysitters, house guests and visitors to keep purses, bags or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are in your home.
  7. Program the Poison Help number 1-800-222-1222 in your home and cell phones so you will have it when you need it.

For more helpful tips and resources on safe medicine storage visit UpandAway.org, brought to you by the CDC and it’s PROTECT Initiative.