Importance of Safeguarding and Properly Disposing of Your Medicines

by Roba Whiteley, Executive Director, Together Rx Access

Throwing away expired, unwanted or unused medicines in the trash or flushing them down the toilet may pose serious risks to your family.

According to a recent study, more than 71,000 children visit emergency rooms annually for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
Another study found that medicines like antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.
In addition, studies have shown that over 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams worldwide.

Proper Disposal

Proper storage and disposal of medicines is critical to the safety of children and teenagers. One way to dispose of
medicines is to participate in medicine take-back programs. These programs offer a safe way to discard leftover medicines and reduce the likelihood of accidental ingestion.

Contact your town’s trash and recycling service to find out if there is a medicine take-back program in your community. Special rules regarding which medicines can be taken back may apply. You can also find out if any pharmacies in your neighborhood participate in such a program. You simply bring the medicines to a participating pharmacy for shipment to a medical-waste-disposal facility. For more information, visit

If a medicine take-back program is not available in your area, talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider about the best way to dispose of your medicines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can discard unused medicines in the household trash if you abide by the following guidelines:

  • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with kitty litter or used coffee grounds (or any material that mixes with the medicine and makes it less appealing for children to eat)
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag
  • Seal the bag or container and put in your household trash

When storing your medicines, keep them out of reach of children. It is recommended that you find a cabinet or drawer that has a lock to store your medicines. Also, make sure the lids on your pill bottles have a childproof cap and keep it tightly closed. Experts suggest not taking your medicines in front of young children as they tend to imitate adult behaviour.

Following these simple preventive steps can protect the health of your family and our environment.