It's important to get rid of expired or unused medicines, inhalers, and epinephrine auto-injectors properly. They can be harmful to someone they aren't prescribed for, especially children. Or they could get into the hands of someone who might misuse them. And getting rid of them improperly can cause them to end up in the water supply, affecting humans and wildlife alike. There are several ways you can dispose of your medicines in a way that is safe and better for the environment.
Disposing of Pills and Patches
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts National Prescription Drug Take Back Day twice a year, usually each April and October. Designated law enforcement agencies across the U.S. will allow you to drop off expired, unused prescription pills and patches so they can be safely disposed.
To find an agency near you that is participating in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, use the Collection Site Locator.
The agencies will only take pills, tablets, capsules, patches or other solid forms of prescription medicines. They cannot take needles, sharps, inhalers, liquids, or illegal drugs. This includes liquid nebulizer medicine and epinephrine auto-injectors.
Some pharmacy chains, like Walgreens and CVS, have medicines drop boxes in select locations. Check with your pharmacy to find out what types of medicines they will accept.
Disposing of Epinephrine Auto-Injectors
To dispose of epinephrine auto-injectors or needles, visit safeneedledisposal.org. You can search by state to find where you can take these for safe disposal.
Disposing of Inhalers
To dispose of inhalers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you read "handling instructions on the labeling of inhalers and aerosol products. These products could be dangerous if punctured or thrown into a fire or incinerator. To properly dispose of these products and follow local regulations and laws, contact your trash and recycling facility."
Some Walgreens locations accept inhalers, but this varies by location. Contact your local Walgreens to confirm if they accept inhalers.
Other options for disposal may include the local health department, police or fire department, pharmacies, and trash and recycling facilities. Please contact the facility before visiting. Verify if they accept inhalers, as well as any procedures for disposal.
Disposing of Liquids
Contact your pharmacy for instructions on how to dispose of liquid medicines, like children's antihistamines and nebulizer medicines. Walgreens also accepts liquid medicines.
Disposing of OTC Medicines
Walgreens and CVS will accept over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
You can also dispose of OTC medicines safely at home if you follow the right steps. According to knowyourotcs.org, follow these steps:
- Mix medicines with an unpleasant substance, like kitty litter or used coffee grounds. Do not crush tablets or capsules.
- Place the mix in a container, like a sealed plastic bag.
- Throw the container in your trash.
The FDA has more information on how to safely dispose of medicines.
Updated September 2022