June 24, 2021

How to Properly Dispose of Psychiatric Medication

by Katelyn Redfoot

Most of us have been there and know what it’s like – that semi-annual clearing out of the medicine cabinet. It goes so quickly and smoothly at first, tossing out expired cold and heartburn medications into the trash until you come across a psychiatric medication that perhaps you don’t use anymore or didn’t finish using in time.

The last thing you want to do is potentially harm someone else in the process of your big cleaning day. Don’t feel foolish if you are not sure what to do now with this psychiatric medication on your hands, because for one, a lot of people don’t. It just shows that you care by taking the initiative to research how to dispose of this medication properly, and this guide will tell you exactly what and what not to do.

The first step you should take is to check the drug label on your bottle to see if has any specific disposal instructions. There is a chance some medications will instruct you to flush unused medications down the toilet.

If there are instructions for flushing down a toilet, it means that the FDA and drug manufacturer both have determined that it is the safest method of disposal. However, if you do not see this anywhere on the label, do not flush them.

Here are some other options:

Option 1

Go online or call your city or county government’s trash and recycling service to see if there are any local drug take-back programs where you can take your unused medications for proper disposal.

Option 2

Call your local trash service to see what options are available in your area. Some municipal trash services have household waste facilities available to drop off your medications to be incinerated.

Option 3

Call your pharmacy or doctor. While neither is required to take back your unused medications, it might be worth checking. Plus, some pharmacies will sponsor drives just for this purpose, so you can call and find out if they have anything planned.

Option 4

If there are no take-back programs, drives, or special trash services available to you, then you can throw your psychiatric medications in the trash. However, that runs the risk of a pet or child discovering them. In either case, the medications in your trash could eventually leach out once your medications make it to the local landfill. So, before you toss them in the garbage, take the following steps first:

  • Remove the drugs from their container and mix them in with used coffee grounds or kitty litter. This will make the medication more undesirable and less detectable by pets, children, and anyone who might intentionally go through your trash.
  • Take all these contents, put them in a closed container or sealed bag to prevent the medication from leaking out, and then throw the container or bag in the trash.
  • You will also want to throw out the original medicine container, but first, tear off the label containing all your personal information or scratch it out, so it is illegible.

A few more things to note:

  • Don’t pour your drugs down the sink, which is no better than flushing down the toilet (unless instructed to) when it comes to introducing them to the local sewage system and posing a threat to anyone consuming local water. When you place them down the sink, they can still contaminate local water and come out through nearby bodies of water or back to your property, potentially harming wildlife and pets.
  • Do not give your unused medications to friends. Drugs are prescribed according to your medical history and symptoms, which means it could be harmful to anyone who does not share these same things.

Katelyn Redfoot

Katelyn Redfoot is an independent content writer based in North Carolina who offers ghostwriting, copywriting, blogging, and social media services. As a health and wellness advocate, she loves learning from and helping clients across the world share creative, relatable, and helpful content. Her goal is soon to take her writing on the road, traveling in a van with her fiance, Jason, and their dogs, Max and Summit.

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