Safe Disposal of Prescription Medication

January 9, 2023, 6:03 pm

The start of a new year can be a good time to check your medicine cabinet and safely dispose of old or unused prescription medications. The best way to dispose of most unused or expired medicines (including controlled substances and opioids) is to drop off the medication at a drug take-back site, location, or program. You can also dispose of many medicines at home if a drug take-back option is unavailable. Unused medications should be disposed of as soon as possible to limit the possibility of improper use.

NEVER flush or dump medication down a drain. Sewage treatment systems cannot remove all the medications from the water released into lakes, rivers, or oceans, or even back into our water supply.

When it comes to safely disposing of medications, you have several options:

Medication Take-Back Programs

These programs allow the public to bring unused drugs to a single location for proper disposal. Call your local government’s trash and recycling service to see if a program is available.

Other medication take-back resources that are available to you include:

  • Drug Take-Back Boxes - You can dispose of unused prescription medications free and anonymously at any of CoxHealth Pharmacy drug take-back boxes (available at our Cox North, Turner Center, Wheeler Heart & Vascular and Branson pharmacy locations). For more information, please visit this article on
  • You can visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website for more information and disposal locations.
  • The DEA allows you to mail back unused prescription medications to pharmacies and other authorized sites using packages made available at pharmacies and other locations.
  • Most states have agency collection boxes overseen by law enforcement or pharmacies.
  • To find box locations or other disposal sites:
  • Community coalitions and law enforcement in your area may sponsor “medication take-back events” periodically.

Disposal in Household Trash

If medication take-back programs are not available in your area, place the drugs in the trash by following these steps:

  • Remove them from their original containers and conceal or remove any personal information, including the Rx number, from the container.
  • Mix the medications with something inedible, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter.
  • Place the empty container and the mixture in a sealed bag or empty can.


For more information on safe disposal of prescription medications, visit these sources:

Research | US EPA

Safe Disposal of Medicines | FDA

How to Safely Dispose of Drugs |



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