How to Safely Dispose Unused Medications

Is your medicine cabinet crowded with unused or expired medications? Many people don’t realize that medications that are carelessly disposed are susceptible to being abused by others. Accidental poisoning is also an alarming issue related to improper disposal of drugs. Most accidental drug poisoning affect children and pets. There are best practices when it comes to properly disposing medication. So when you’re ready to go through and get rid of your old medicine, keep these safe disposal tips in mind:


1. Look for specific guidelines on the medicine label.


Medications may have specific steps on how to dispose of the drug properly on the label. If there are any listed, follow the instructions accordingly.


2. Flush drugs down the toilet or make medication unusable before throwing in the trash.

Some medications may specifically instruct to flush the prescription drug down the toilet for disposal. Otherwise if there are no clear instructions, you will need to prepare the medication before throwing into the trash. First, separate the medicine from the original container into a plastic sealable bag. Then scratch or mark up the drug label on the container so the information is illegible. Lastly, take any undesirable substance like kitty litter or wet coffee grounds to add to the medicine before sealing the bag and disposing in the trash.


3. Mark your calendars for semi-annual prescription take back programs in Hawaii.

Take back programs provide a good opportunity to get rid of your old medications. From 2010 to 2015, Hawaii collected 16,778 pounds of drugs. Hawaii law restricts hospitals and pharmacies to secure old prescription drugs. However, take back events happen twice a year usually in April and September or October. The service is free and can be turned in anonymously by the public. Check local news outlets during these times to find out when the programs will start and nearest collection sites.

Caregiver’s Heart Hawaii encourages the use of prescription take back initiatives for medication disposal. These programs are the best to prevent drugs from harming the environment. It is also the safest method to protect your loved ones and ending up in the wrong hands. For more info, visit the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration website at


KHON 2 – Got Drugs? Prescription Drug Take Back Event in September

FDA – How to Dispose of Unused Medications

Take Back Your Meds – Medicine Disposal Myth and Facts

My Old Meds – In-Home Disposal

Pacific Business News – Hawaii state law won’t let hospitals, pharmacies take back expired prescription drugs