Article Content

Patients, friends, and neighbors often ask me how to dispose of unused or expired medications. I know not to flush them down the toilet, but what's a safe alternative?-K.H., N.Y.


Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the American Pharmacists Association, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America joined forces to address this issue. Their campaign, dubbed SMARxT disposal, is designed to educate the public about the environmental impact of medications flushed into sewer systems and provide alternatives. Teach patients and others these medication safety tips:


* Crush solid medications or dissolve them in water (this also applies to liquid medications). Mix the liquid in kitty litter, sawdust, or any similar material that's unpalatable and absorbent, seal the mixture in a plastic bag, and place in the trash.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

* Remove all prescription labels and other identifying information before discarding medication containers.


* Check for hazardous collection programs or hazardous waste facilities in your area. In some states, medications can be returned to pharmacies.



The FDA still recommends flushing for certain medications with high abuse potential. These include fentanyl patches and tablets, oxycodone, and Percocet. For more information, visit