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How to dispose of prescription drugs

This page provides advice on how to dispose of prescription drugs safely, responsibly and legally.

Recent studies have shown that medications flushed down the drain contaminate our lakes and streams, which leads to impacting fish and other aquatic wildlife, ending up in our drinking water. This is because most existing municipal wastewater treatments systems cannot remove medications from the wastewater. Some medications, such as hormones and antidepressants, interfere with the reproduction and normal growth of many aquatic species, such as frogs and fish.

How can I safely dispose of my medicine

Since September 2014, the Drug Enforcement Agency allows pharmacies to collect medications, however not all pharmacies may choose to collect unwanted medicines.

Take it to the box icon

These programs accept all medicines from households, including prescription, over-the-counter, liquid, solid, and pet medicines. Contact your county sheriff’s office or city police office to find out if there is a permanent collection site near you.

  • HTML icon Rethink Recycling - Medicine & Prescription Drugs

    Across the Twin Cities, many counties and local law enforcement agencies have installed drop boxes or are organizing collection events to give residents the opportunity to properly and safely dispose of unwanted, unused and expired medicines. Programs typically accept all medicines from households, including prescription, over-the-counter and pet medicines.

Disposing of medications when a collection site isn't available

Don’t flush old or unwanted prescriptions or over-the-counter medications down the toilet or drain.

Incineration at a permitted Waste-To-Energy facility is the best method for destruction of household pharmaceuticals. If you know your garbage goes to an incinerator, you can safely dispose of your medications using the instructions below. If your garbage goes to a landfill and you would prefer not to wait until a collection option is available, it is still better to follow these instructions than to flush any medications.

  1. Keep the medication in its original container. The labels may contain safety information and the caps are typically childproof. Leaving the content information clearly visible, cover the patient's name and prescription number with permanent maker.
  2. Modify the contents to discourage anyone from taking the medication. For pills or capsules, add a small amount of vinegar to the container to partially dissolve them. Add table salt or flour to liquids.
  3. Seal and conceal the medication container. Tape the lid shut with duct tape and place the container inside a non-transparent piece of trash, such as an empty margarine tub. For blister packs, wrap packages containing pills in opaque tape like duct tape.
  4. Throw the container in the garbage.

Consumers are advised to check their local laws and ordinances to make sure medicines can legally be disposed of with their household trash.

Prevent abuse and accidental poisoning

Medicines in home cabinets are the second highest cause of accidental poisoning in children and adults. These drugs are also highly susceptible to misuse and abuse. Studies show that people who abuse prescription drugs often obtain them from medicine cabinets of family and friends.

Make sure you store all medications in their original containers and in a place that children and visitors cannot easily access. Sort through medications annually and properly dispose of outdated and unneeded medications.

Other resources

» To watch an excellent video highlighting the dangers of prescription drugs please checkout our prescription drug safety page.

» For the Governments official advice, please see the FDA website.

» Help you to find medication disposal programs at the local independent community pharmacy, please click here



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