How to Safely Store and Dispose of Drugs

pills in a pill organizer

Medication plays a vital role in treating certain diseases and conditions. However, precaution should be with high consideration as instructed by the prescriber with the duration. The unused portions of medication must be disposed of properly to ensure no harm to people, pets, and the environment.

To ensure that the medicines you take are effective and safe, pay attention to the expiration dates and dispose of properly any expired medicines. 

Luckily, there are few convenient ways to safely dispose of expired and unused over-the-counter drugs in your home. Take your cue from the following.

Storage of Medication

Where do you store your medicines? You must have organized storage for your medicine while you keep track of what you take. It is easier to know where your particular medicine is when you need it or when someone else needs it. Keep your medicine in safe storage so that your precious pet, a curious toddler, a teenager, or even a meddling houseguest does not get into them.

Properly storing your medication is essential to the lifespan of the medicine. Medicines that are correctly stored helps ensure the effectiveness of the medication as it prevents possible poisoning hazards. Medicine’s storage procedure varies, but here are some essential tips to ensure that the medication is stored correctly.

  1. Some medications have specific storage methods. Ask your pharmacist for instructions on how to store your medication.
  2. Store medication far from easy reach and sight of children like a kitchen cabinet or a shell in a halfway closet. 
  3. Have a cabinet or drawer with a lock for the medicines
  4. Some medications get damaged in the presence of heat, air, light, and moisture, so make sure to store medicines in a cool, dry place. However, bathroom cabinets due to the heat and moisture present in the bathroom are strongly discouraged.
  5. Keep the medicine in its original container with its label.
  6. Some medicine bottles have cotton balls, remove it as it pulls moisture into the bottle.

Disposal of prescription medicines at home

Here are ways to properly disposed of unused and expired medicines:

Drug take-back program: A drug take-back program is the best option for all medications. A drug take-back program collects expired drugs and properly disposes of them. This program aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible procedure for disposing of prescription drugs. It also helps to educate everyone about the possible abuse of medications. 

Some pharmacies offer on-site medicine drop-off boxes and other ways to safely discard expired and unused medicines.

Although drug take-back programs are the leading option for medicine safety, medications can be disposed of at home as an alternative. Here are a few best practices that are profiled below for at-home options for safe storage and disposal.  

Flushing Medication:  Often, people wonder if it’s acceptable to flush particular medicine when a take-back option is not available. Other medicines should be flushed down the toilet when they are no longer needed.  

Some medicines can be harmful to others, which is why they have specific instructions to flush them down the sink or toilet immediately when they are no longer needed. Before you do these, note that you should consult the U.S Food and Drug Administration’s List of flushable medications as some medications can only be disposed of by flushing. 

Please do not flush your medicine unless it is on the FDA flush list.

Disposing of medication in the trash: When a take-back program is unavailable, most medicine, except those on the FDA flush list, can be disposed into the household trash for safe and proper disposal of prescription medications. These prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) include drugs in liquid, pill, patches, creams, and inhalers.

Take the drugs out from their original containers. This method makes the medication more challenging for someone to recognize, especially for those who are intentionally searching for drugs in the trash.

Mix the discarded medicine with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, used coffee grounds, or cat litter. Mixing the medicine with an unpleasant material or texture makes the medicine hard to recognize and find less desirable to children and pets. 

Be sure to put the mixture in a closed and sealable storage bag, empty can, and the likes. This method helps the drug from spilling or leaking out.

Dispose the packaging, ensuring that all your personal information is scratched out to protect your privacy and identity.


A proper and safe way of disposing of medicine is a vital part of medicine safety. Expired medications become less effective and pose a health risk due to exposure in chemical composition or lessened its strength. Therefore, proper storage for medicine is crucial as it allows the medicine to maintain its full strength and purpose. Safe and proper medicine disposal lessens the risk of people consuming and mismanaging medications and prevents the medication from harming people, pets, and the environment.

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