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How should I dispose of old or unused medication?


Medications play an important role in treating certain conditions and diseases, but they must be taken with care. Unused portions of these medications must be disposed of properly to avoid harm. However, certain medicine may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal in a single dose if they are used by someone other than the person the medicine was prescribed for. For this reason, a few medications have special disposal directions that indicate they should be flushed down the sink or toilet after the medicine is no longer needed. If you dispose these down the sink or toilet, they cannot be accidentally used by children, pets, or anybody else.

It is important to note that disposal by flushing is not recommended for the vast majority of medicines. For information on drugs that should be flushed visit the FDA website. The FDA continually evaluates medicines for safety risks and will update the list as needed.

To dispose of prescription drugs not labeled to be flushed, select Walgreens locations have installed safe medication disposal kiosks. Individuals can safely and conveniently dispose of their unwanted, unused or expired medications at no cost. Simply bring them to a Walgreens with a safe disposal kiosk and deposit the medication in the kiosk—much like dropping a letter into a mailbox. The kiosks are available during regular pharmacy hours and are located in most states and Washington DC. The types of medications accepted include prescriptions, prescription and over the counter ointments and creams, liquids, lotions, pet medications, prescription patches, over-the-counter medications and vitamins. Certain medications are not accepted at the kiosks including needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, and illicit drugs. To find a kiosk in your area, please visit our Store Locator.

If a kiosk is not available in your area, you may be able to take advantage of community drug take-back programs or other programs, such as household hazardous waste collection events, that collect drugs at a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government's household trash and recycling service and ask if a drug take-back program is available in your community.

If a drug take-back or collection program is not available:

  • Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.
  • Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
  • Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
  • Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
  • Place the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers, in the trash.
  • For liquid medications, you may want to mix with an absorbent material such as flour or cat litter to help discourage misuse or unintentional use of the medication if it's found and opened.

Back to Ask a Pharmacist


Answers to questions regarding information about medications or health conditions are not for diagnostic or treatment purposes and are not conclusive as to the presence or absence of any health condition. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of your medical condition. The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of the scientific literature may vary. Walgreens' terms of use and general warranty disclaimer apply to all services provided. If you are in need of immediate medical attention, contact your physician, poison control center or emergency medical professional. If you need to speak with a pharmacist for non-emergency matters, contact your local Walgreens pharmacist or call a pharmacist toll-free at 1 (877) 250-5823.

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