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Tips for Safely Disposing of Outdated Medications


Spring is a time many seniors and their adult children work together to deep clean and de-clutter the house. It can be a good time to open your senior loved one’s medicine cabinet and sort through medications that are no longer needed or those that are expired.

Doing so, however, might leave you wondering what to do with all those old medications. Is it safe to flush them down the toilet? Or throw them in the trash?

It’s a more complicated issue than you might think. And a bigger one. In fact, during a Prescription Drug Take Back Day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in May of 2016, 447 tons of prescription medications were collected.

Here’s what you should know before you toss any outdated medications.

How to Safely Dispose of Unused Medicine

There are a variety of ways you can safely dispose of unused prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. A few to explore are:

  • Pharmacy Services: Check with your local pharmacy to see if they will accept them. Some offer this on a routine basis, while others host monthly or quarterly “take back” programs.

  • Drug Enforcement Agency: Another possibility is to locate a DEA public disposal location near you. You can search their database to learn more.

  • Federal Drug Administration (FDA): Some medications are safe to flush down the toilet, while others aren’t. The FDA makes it easier to determine which category those you might want to dispose of fall in to. You can look each one up on their website.

  • Disposal Procedure: You may also throw away some medications if you follow the proper procedures. That means removing the medicine from its original containers and placing the contents in a sealable plastic bag, jar, or other container that is filled with used coffee grounds, kitty litter or dirt. You can then throw it in your regular trash.

Understanding Prescription Drug Concerns

Prompt and safe disposal also helps keep dangerous medication from falling in to the hands of a grandchild or even the family pet.

And it is important to understand that, according to the DEA, most prescription drug abusers get their drugs from people they know. Prescription painkillers are often a gateway drug that opens the door to heroin abuse. Getting them out of the house as soon as they are no longer needed decreases the risk someone you love may end up abusing them.

Randall Residence offers each of our residents the support necessary to safely manage medications each day. We invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Randall Residence

300 White Oak Rd Lawton, MI 49065