One way to get rid of unused and outdated pharmaceuticals is in the trash. Several steps must be taken if this method is to be used.

The first step is to avoid it if possible.

(1) Avoid accumulation of medications.

(2) Take advantage of a pharmaceutical take-back program in a community, pharmacy or hospital.


The second step is to determine if any of the compounds are extremely toxic or hazardous, such as chemotherapeutic agents or strong corrosives. These may require disposal through a hazardous waste program. It may be necessary to review local regulations as to what is not permitted.


The third step is to dispose of the rest.

(1) Empty the medications from the original pill containers into a disposal container that is sealable, leak-proof and waterproof.

(2) Solubilize medicines in water and then mix the liquid with a strongly absorbent material. Used cat litter was recommended in the past. Commercial products use activated charcoal in a disposable plastic pouch. Activated charcoals has a huge number of micropores which traps drugs and makes them inaccessible.

(3) The sealed container with drugs is then placed in the trash. It should be inaccessible to children and pets.

(4) Dispose of the medication containers. Make sure that any labels on drug containers are unreadable so that there is no clue as to contents.

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