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Don't just flush those leftover meds

April 22, 2010 |  3:48 pm

Lottapills Unused medications create a dilemma -- what to do with the things? They obviously shouldn't be left lying around accessible to bored teenagers or curious kids. Nor should they be flushed; medication traces are already showing up in the water supply. But just dumped in the trash...? Maybe they should be taken back to a pharmacy.

The National Community Pharmacists Assn., which represents independent community pharmacists, and Sharps Compliance, a medical waste management company, is offering a disposal method that may provide more peace of mind than the traditional "toss 'em in the rubbish bin and hope for the best" approach.

Go to for a list of pharmacies that will dispose of those meds for you. There are 800 participating pharmacies in 40 states, but it's a big country. Even in the L.A. area, you might have to search beyond a 5-mile radius to find one.

For people who can't find a pharmacy or would have to travel too far, the site offers a link to the Office of National Drug Control Policy's guidelines on medication disposal.

That, in a way, seems to bring consumers back to where many started -- at a bit of a loss. Among the tips are to take unused drugs to a collection program, of which there seem to be precious few. (Kudos, guys, for this one.)

But the guidelines do include useful advice as well -- such as, if you must trash the pills, mix them with kitty litter first. 

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

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Comments (11)

You can always take them to the hazardous waste disposal service run by your city - such as the one in Santa Monica.

This is where an old fashioned outhouse has value.

Food for thought - I believe that drugs, whether it be chemicals in food or prescriptions, are partly responsible for obesity in America. Are you contributing to that?

If we make recycling and responsible waste disposal complicated enough, everyone will give up and just toss everything in the landfill. I am very close to falling into this condition. Hazardous this, toxic that, recyclable this, reusable that, and a lot of it at far-flung centers. I do have other things to do than sort trash and drive bits of it all over the urban area.

I had this dilemma when my dad passed. He had a suitcase full of prescriptions that actually were responsible for his death and I was at a loss as to how to dispose of them. The Pharmacy wouldn't take them, I had no way of driving anywhere far, so I had to trash them after I filled a bucket of water to throw them all in bottle after bottle filled with prescribed drugs. They were all Vicodin's and Oxycotin.

Looking for a safe place to drop off your drug waste ? Check out

For the record, I would be happy to...dispose of.. any unused vicodin or oxycontin that you all may have laying around. Just let me know :)

Why isn't there a clearing house to get them to people who can use them ,but can't afford them.

When mom died, we had a ton of medication. No one would take them. I ended up putting them into 1/2 can of paint, smushing the pills under the paint... then, leaving the lid off until the paint dried up.

Thank you for reporting on this. I had gone to various local pharmacies, hoping that they would take back expired and/or unused medications, only to be told to "just flush them down the toilet" by the pharmacists! *sigh* I didn't and now know where to dispose of them properly, even though I'm flabbergasted that there is only ONE pharmacy within a 10 mile radius of where I live.

Thanks for posting this. I have a bag full of expired IVF meds and needed to get rid of them. But I don't want to put estrogen and progesterone down the drain.


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