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Prescription Medicine (cont.)

Disposing of Old or Unused Medications

Follow the drug manufacturer's instructions for disposing unused medication (most recommend to return drugs to a pharmacy). Most drugs can be thrown in the household trash. Before throwing drugs in the trash, take them out of their original container and mix them in a bag with other household trash (mix with coffee grounds or kitty litter as suggested by the FDA) so that they are unrecognizable and undesirable by anyone who might go through trash. Such treatment makes discarded medications less likely to be consumed by children or pets. Despite environmental concerns, some drugs should be flushed down the toilet because they can be very harmful if accidentally consumed by kids or pets. Visit for a list of drugs that should be flushed. Drugs can also be disposed by taking them to the pharmacy or to community drug take-back programs.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


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Previous contributing authors and editors: Author: Daniel AC Frattarelli, MD, FAAP, Clinical Instructor, Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine; Fellow, Clinical Pediatric Pharmacology, Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Children's Hospital of Michigan.

Editors: Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM, Research Director, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD, Senior Pharmacy Editor, eMedicine; James Quinn, MD, Director of Research Department of Medicine, Division of Emergency Medicine University of California at San Francisco Medical Center.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2016

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