Clean Out the Cabinet

Pill Box: How to safely dispose of those old prescriptions

I would like to dispose of some unused pain medication. How can I safely do that?

Hanging on to expired, unwanted or unused prescriptions can present many problems. and it's a good idea to dispose of medications that you're not using. One issue with pain medication in particular is the potential for theft and subsequent misuse and perhaps even fatal overdose with the drugs. Because of this, the FDA is particularly concerned about unused pain medication.

The best way to dispose of medicine you're not going to use is through a community medication take-back program or through DEA-authorized collectors. Unfortunately, these outlets are not always available. The Spokane Aquifer Joint Board asks that medications not be flushed down the toilet or poured into a drain, as this can contaminate the aquifer. On the other hand, the FDA has a small list of potentially dangerous medications that they say should be flushed if other safe methods of disposal are not available. Most of the medications on this list are opioid pain meds. The complete list of meds can be found by entering "Flush List" at

For other medications, if take-back programs are not available in your area, you can mix the medications with used coffee grounds, dirt or kitty litter and place this mixture in a plastic bag. The bag can be disposed of through household trash. Dispose of the medication container after you have removed all personal information. Medication can also be secured in plastic bags (best to add used coffee grounds or other material) and taken to one of the four Spokane County Household Hazardous Waste drop-offs.

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