Disposing of old medicine properly is important to the health of humans and the environment. Medications can end up in streams, rivers, drinking water and soil, which can be toxic to animals and humans who come in contact with it.

It’s important to follow instructions for how to dispose of old medicine to reduce the risk of poisoning others who come into contact with the medications. The US Food and Drug Administration provides clear instructions for disposing of medicine, with the goal of keeping people and the community safe.

Find an Authorized Collector (or Drug Take-Back Location)

There are specific instructions for how to dispose of medication, but the guidelines are different for different drugs. The first option for unused medications is to bring them back to a drug take-back location. This might be a pharmacy, law enforcement office, doctor’s office or other location. Recover Together has created a map of convenient locations to dispose of unneeded medications.

Drugs can also be returned on National Prescription Drug Takeback Day sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Some communities may also have a drug take-back event where medications can be dropped off in a central location, like a pharmacy or police station. Locations for disposing of unused medicine or “public disposal locations” can be found on the Drug Enforcement Administration website.

If a disposal location is not available, there are alternative ways to dispose of medication. Some medications may be safe to flush down the toilet, but check the FDA flush list before disposing of drugs this way.

If your medication is not on the flush list, it must be safely disposed of in the trash following specific instructions.

Safely Dispose of Unused Medication in Your Household Trash

Safe medicine disposal of drugs that are not on the FDA flush list may be done at home. To keep other people or animals safe, unused medicine disposal procedures require mixing drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds. The mixture should then be put in a disposable container with a lid or in a bag that can be sealed. The container can then be placed in the trash.

It’s also important to remove all personal information, including your name, date of birth and prescription number from the pill bottle before disposing of it. It can be crossed out, scratched off or covered with permanent tape to make sure that no one can take this information before disposing of the bottle in the trash.

Don’t Rush to Flush

Flushing medicine may seem like a safe and quick option for disposing of medicine, but it can be very harmful. Although some medications are safe to flush down the toilet, it’s important to check that these are approved and safe before doing so.

The effects of flushing medicine down the toilet can impact humans, animals, and the environment. These medications can unknowingly be used by people who do not need or cannot tolerate these drugs. The toxic effect of medication in drinking water can be dangerous and even fatal.

Flushing can be a safe option for keeping medication out of harm’s way, but it’s important to check the best and safest procedures for medicine disposal. If you’re unsure of the best way to dispose of your old or unused medication, you can read the FDA frequently asked questions or contact your local law authority.