People who are prescribed opioids for pain don’t always need to take all of the pills in their prescription. In fact, some people find that after surgery, they don’t need to take even a single pill. In these situations, it’s important to dispose of unused prescription medications safely rather than keep them in the house.
You can also drop off prescription medications through drug take-back programs, which may offer on-site drug drop boxes, mail-back programs, or other home disposal methods. To find a location near you, use the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s locator.
Additional collection sites are available during the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Days, which are held every year in April and October. Virginia residents dropped off 21,565 pounds of unused prescription drugs during the April 2022 observance. Nationally, drug drop boxes have collected a total of 7,995 tons since September 2010, according to the DEA.
You can request a drug disposal bag from your health department or pharmacy for your unused or expired pills. These bags contain powder to dissolve unused pills when warm water is added and the pouches are sealed. The pouches can then be safely disposed of in the trash.
If you are unable to request a drug disposal bag and there is no drug drop box nearby, you can safely dispose of your unused or expired medication in your household trash by following these steps:
Unless the medication is on the Food and Drug Administration’s flush list and you have specifically been instructed to flush it, do not dispose of prescription medication in the toilet or sink. This can contaminate waterways and harm fish and other wildlife.
For additional information on safely disposing of unused medication, visit the FDA website, or call your pharmacist.
The FDA’s two-step disposal process will help you get rid of needles and other sharp objects, such as syringes with attached needles, lancets, and insulin pens: