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What’s the Best Way to Get Rid of Old Medications?

Real Simple answers your questions.

Bottle of prescription medication with pillsAmy Wilson 
Q. How should I dispose of medicines that have expired? 
Elizabeth Rogers
Murfreesboro, Tennessee

A. Mix medications with coffee grounds and toss them in the trash. It turns out that the common practice of flushing pills down the toilet has a harmful effect on waterways and their ecosystems. Instead, mix most expired pills with coffee grounds, cat litter, or sawdust in a zippered plastic bag and throw it out with the garbage. This will keep them away from kids and pets and prevent harm to fish and other wildlife habitats. The exception? Highly addictive drugs, such as Percocet and OxyContin, which the Food and Drug Administration classifies as controlled substances. (Visit for a full list.) These should be flushed, to eliminate any chance of accidental ingestion.

Another option is to participate in a medication take-back program. To find out if your area has one and which medications it accepts, contact the local waste-management office at your city hall. ―Kristin Appenbrink

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