If you think someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately. Learn more about the signs of overdose.

Medication Disposal

According to the Virginia Department of Health, an average of four Virginians per day died of an opioid overdose in 2020. One way you can help prevent opioid misuse and overdose is to dispose of your unused prescription medication. Proper disposal can prevent prescription opioids from getting into the wrong hands.

How To Dispose of Prescription Medication

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.

The following video shows how to dispose of prescription drugs at drug take-back locations and at home.

Disposal at Pharmacies

Drop off your unused and expired prescription medications at selected Walgreens or CVS stores. Use this drug disposal locator tool to see if your local Walgreens or CVS is a medication disposal location. Check their websites for lists of items that you can and cannot drop off:

Drug Take-Back Programs

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.

Drug Disposal Bags

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.

Disposal at Home

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:

  • Remove the medication from its container and mix it with an undesirable substance such as dirt, used cat litter, or used coffee grounds.
  • Put the mixture in a sealed plastic bag and place it in your trash.
  • Scratch out or remove personal information on the label, then recycle the pill bottle to keep others from trying to order refills.

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.

Disposing Needles & Sharp Objects

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:

  • Place the needle(s) inside a sharps disposal container or a heavy-duty plastic household container, such as a plastic laundry detergent bottle, and close it tightly. Ideally, use heavy-duty tape (e.g., duct tape) to ensure it’s completely sealed.
  • Use the DEA locator to find a collection site near you. If there is no nearby collection site, place the container in your household trash. Do not place it in a recycle bin.

Proper Medication Storage

Keep your household safe by learning how to store prescription medication.

Find Storage Tips