Household Hazard Rx: Proper disposal of unused medications

Not in my water supply!
That's what I say when I am told by my patients regularly that they often flush their unused prescription medications down the toilet or wash them down the drain. Granted, it was once believed that disposing of medications this way was ideal and safe, and this is still true for a small number of medications. However, studies have shown that people are now exposed to higher than normal levels of certain chemicals and hormones due to improper disposal of prescription medications that end up in our water supply such as our drinking water, creeks, streams, and even our ocean due to run off. Not only are humans affected by the contamination but so are pets, wildlife, and fish!


Who needs to dispose of medication?

Anyone with expired medications or those who are no longer taking a medication and have a left over supply. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our family, our friends, and the environment to responsibly dispose of medications to keep them out of water supplies and our bodies!

What can you do?

There are many (and easy) ways to properly dispose of unused medications (prescription as well as over-the-counter)! Here are a few ways discussed by SMARxT Disposal:
  • Contact your local police department: find out if your community offers drug collection days or have drop off locations near you.
  • Reach out to your local pharmacist: pharmacists are often untapped resources in the community and provide a knowledge of wealth not just on how to take your medication properly but also how to dispose of your medication responsibly. 
  • Dispose in your household trash when all else fails: simply mix your unused medications in a ziploc bag with undesirable contents such as used kitty litter or coffee grounds, seal the bag, and toss it! This is not the preferred method but is recommended by certain groups when access to return programs or drop boxes are not accessible.
 *Always remember to remove all personal information from your medication bottles to ensure the protection of your privacy. provides a handy chart to keep in your house that discusses what types of medications can be returned and where to return them. You are even able to return pet medications, inhalers, and medication samples at annual Take Back Your Meds events nationwide.