Return your pills to the pharmacy
Many pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, narcotic treatment programs and long-term care centers will take leftover and expired medication any time of the year. Some locations might also offer mail-back programs.
To find an authorized program near you, go to DisposeMyMeds.org or DEA diversion. usdoj.gov and search for “drug disposal.” Or call the DEA’s Registration Call Center at 1-800882-9539.
Walgreens has made this especially convenient by introducing self-service kiosks earlier this year. The kiosks are free, anonymous and secure: Simply place unwanted and expired medication, including controlled substances, in the top slot and walk away.
If your local pharmacy won’t accept your medication and drop-off at an authorized location is not an option, you can toss most pills in your house--
hold trash (with the exception of narcotic painkillers) -- provided you take a few precautions.
First, remove the drug from its original container and mix it with a substance that makes it less recognizable, such as coffee grounds, kitty litter, or sawdust. Then place the mixture in a sealable plastic bag or other container that won’t leak and put it in the trash. As an added precaution, before you discard the prescription bottle, remove the label entirely or scratch away the personal information.
Take precautions with painkillers
Recent data suggests that, when it comes to addressing accidental or intentional misuse, we have a lot of work to do. In a survey of people who were recently prescribed opioids, published in JAMA Internal Medicine in June, 60 percent of respondents reported holding on to the drugs for future use. Almost half said that they weren’t aware of how to properly store or dispose of opioids.
Leftover prescription painkillers can be fatal if ingested by someone in your home, including children and pets, and for that reason, they shouldn’t be tossed in the trash, says Food and Drug Administration spokesperson Lyndsay Meyer.
For example, Meyer adds, “too much fentanyl can cause severe breathing problems and lead to death in babies, children, pets and even adults, especially those who have not been prescribed the medicine.”
Consumer Reports says that the best way to handle leftover narcotic painkillers, such as fentanyl (Duragesic and generic), hydrocodone (Vicodin and generic), meperidine (Demerol and generic), morphine or oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet and generic), is to take them to a pharmacy or authorized take-back location.
But if you can’t get there, leftovers of those and other controlled substances listed on the FDA’s website can be flushed down the sink or toilet, Meyer says.