Spring is a great time to clean and de-clutter your house before the busy days of summer begin. If you are making plans to deep clean your home or help an older loved one tidy up theirs, make sure you add cleaning out the medicine cabinet to your list.

Taking time to dispose of expired or no-longer-needed medications helps prevent medication mistakes, such as taking the wrong medicine or having one fall into the wrong hands.

How do you go about disposing of old medications?

Experts say the answer is more complicated than you likely realize. Some medications are safer and easier to dispose of than others. Here are a few tips to help you explore your options.

4 Ways to Safely Dispose of Old Medicine

  1. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA): The DEA hosts public disposal sites.  You can search by zip code to find a location near you. Its website also lists what drugs they accept.
  2. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The FDA website can help you determine which medications are safe to flush down the toilet and which ones can damage the environment or water supply. You can search for the safest way to dispose of each old medication.
  3. Local pharmacies: Many pharmacies routinely offer prescription “take-back” days. Call a pharmacy near you to see if they will be hosting one soon.
  4. Standard disposal procedure: If you aren’t able to figure out how or where to dispose of a medication, you can follow what is considered to be standard disposal procedure: remove the medicine from its original container and place it in a sealable plastic bag or other container filled with coffee grounds or kitty litter. Then throw the bag in your regular trash. This is generally considered to be a last resort if you can’t find a disposal site or take-back program nearby.

Prescription Drug Concerns

One final but important thing to remember about prescription medicine is how easy it is for a dangerous medication to end up in the wrong hands. When you are no longer using a medication, you likely won’t even notice it is missing.

According to the DEA, most prescription drug abusers obtain drugs from people they know, typically without their consent. Getting unused medications out of your house decreases the risk that someone you know may end up abusing them.

Medication Assistance at Sunrise

One task that we help many of our assisted living residents with is medication management. Our trained caregivers provide support for medication management as part of a resident’s Individualized Service Plan, including reordering prescriptions. Call the Sunrise community nearest you to learn more. 



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