How to Safely Dispose of Medication That Is Unwanted/Expired

Senior woman holding pills and reading the information on the label

Learn how to safely dispose of medication that is unwanted or expired.

With so many older adults taking many different prescriptions, and with health care professionals changing and adding dosages and medications to find the ideal solutions, it’s important to understand what to do with medications that are no longer needed or that have expired. There are a few options:

  • Check labels. The medication’s label or informational literature may provide instructions on how to properly dispose of the drug. You may also consult the pharmacist for guidelines.
  • Participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This is the suggested method to properly dispose of unwanted medications, and it is held each year in locations across the country by the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration. Discover the location closest to you together with the next date for the event.
  • Use caution prior to flushing medication down the toilet. Flushing prescription drugs down the toilet is usually not advised, but there are particular exceptions, detailed in the FDA’s Flush List. Medications currently considered acceptable to flush include:
    • Acetaminophen
    • Benzhydrocodone
    • Buprenorphine
    • Diazepam
    • Fentanyl
    • Hydrocodone
    • Hydromorphone
    • Meperidine
    • Methadone
    • Methylphenidate
    • Morphine
    • Oxycodone
    • Oxymorphone
    • Sodium Oxybate
    • Tapentadol
  • Camouflage when disposing. Many prescription medications can be discarded with normal trash, if guidelines are taken to prevent animals from unintentionally ingesting them or from anyone seeking drugs to find and take them. The FDA recommends combining the medications with an undesirable substance – such as coffee grounds or kitty litter – and then placing in a sealed plastic bag prior to adding to your household garbage bag.
  • Remove identifying information. Be sure to scratch out and/or shred any personal information to guard the senior’s identification in order to protect against someone who is unauthorized from discovering the prescription container and acquiring a refill of the prescription.

For more assistance with medications, including medication reminders to make sure senior loved ones take prescription medications just as instructed by the physician, connect with the aging care experts at CareWorks Health Services, leaders in home health services for Huntington Beach, CA and surrounding areas. We are also available to help with a variety of aging care needs in the home that improve quality of life for older adults, such as:

  • Assistance with hygiene and personal care needs
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Light housework
  • Companionship to engage in enjoyable activities and conversations
  • Transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and outings
  • Running errands, like picking up prescriptions and groceries
  • And so much more

Call us at (949) 859-4700 to let us know more in regards to the challenges a senior is facing, and to request a complimentary in-home consultation to allow us to share with you more about how we can help.