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Page updated Nov 23, 2015 2:33 PM

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How Should I Dispose of My Drugs Safely?

Many people wonder how to properly dispose of their prescription drugs. Never flush your prescription drugs down a toilet or place in the sink. Just return your unused drugs to the pharmacy, or follow these simple instructions below.

Drug Take-Back Programs

The best option to dispose of all expired, unused, or unwanted medications is to participate in local drug “take-back” programs sponsored by the Alexandria Police Department and Sheriff’s Office. Historically these have been conducted twice a year (in the spring and fall). More information regarding dates and locations may be available at:

Disposal in Trash

Another disposal option for most drugs may be in the regular trash following these FDA guidelines (see exceptions below under "Flushing"):

1. Remove them from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter (this makes the drug unpalatable and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs).

2. Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.  Place the bag in the regular trash can, not in the recycling bin.

3. Needles and syringes should be disposed of in a hard plastic container, such as a detergent bottle, capped securely, and labeled as "Sharps,” then placed in the refuse. Needles and syringes should never go into the recycling bin.


Flushing – is ONLY recommended for a small number of medications:

A small number of medicines may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal with just one dose if they are used by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed.

The following link is a list from the FDA advising what medicines you should flush down the sink or toilet to help prevent danger to people and pets:

Other Guidelines

Before throwing out a medicine container, scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.

Do not give your medicine to friends. Doctors prescribe medicines based on a person's specific symptoms and medical history. A medicine that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.

When in doubt about proper disposal, talk to your pharmacist.    

For further information, please consult the following: