Expired or Unwanted Prescriptions? Here’s How to Dispose of Medication Safely

senior woman looking at medication pill bottle
Senior medicine that is expired or unwanted needs to be disposed of properly.

With so many older adults taking multiple prescriptions, and with doctors adding and changing medications and dosages to determine just the right solutions, it’s important to know how to dispose of medication that is no longer needed or that has expired.

There are several options:

  1. Check labels. The prescription’s label or informational literature may provide direction on how to safely dispose of the drug. You can also ask the pharmacist for recommendations.
  2. Participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This is the preferred method to responsibly dispose of medication, and is held annually in locations throughout the country by the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration. Find the location nearest to you and the next date for the event here.
  3. Use caution before flushing. Flushing medications down the toilet is generally not recommended, but there are certain exceptions, outlined in the FDA’s Flush List here. Medications currently deemed acceptable to flush include:
    • Acetaminophen
    • Benzhydrocodone
    • Buprenorphine
    • Diazepam
    • Fentanyl
    • Hydrocodone
    • Hydromorphone
    • Meperidine
    • Methadone
    • Methylphenidate
    • Morphine
    • Oxycodone
    • Oxymorphone
    • Sodium Oxybate
    • Tapentadol
  4. Disguise when discarding. Many medications can be discarded with regular garbage, if precautions are taken to prevent animals from accidentally ingesting them or from anyone seeking drugs to find and take them. The FDA recommends mixing the meds with an undesirable substance – such as kitty litter or coffee grounds – and then placing in a sealed plastic bag before adding to your household garbage bag.
  5. Remove identifying information. Be sure to scratch out and/or shred any personal information to protect the senior’s identity and to prevent anyone who is unauthorized from finding the pill container and obtaining a refill of the medication.

For more help with senior medicine, including medication reminders to ensure seniors take prescriptions exactly as directed by the doctor, contact the aging care experts at JFS Care, the top-rated providers of help at home in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. We’re also available to help with a wide range of aging care needs at home that improve quality of life for seniors, such as:

  • Assistance with personal care and hygiene needs
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Light household chores
  • Companionship to engage in conversations and enjoyable activities
  • Transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and outings
  • Running errands, such as picking up prescriptions and groceries
  • And much more.

Call us at (213) 383-2273 to learn more about how we provide help at home in Los Angeles and surrounding areas and to let us know more about the challenges a senior loved one is facing, and to request a free in-home consultation to allow us to share more about how we can help.