By: Amanda Stinnett


Amanda Stinnett has earned a B.S. in Public Health and an M.P.H. from IUPUI and is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager. Amanda has served as an Environmental Specialist with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at IUPUI since 2005.


E-mail Amanda at: asfoti@iupui.edu


How to Dispose of Unwanted Medication

Does spring cleaning at your house include disposal of unwanted or outdated medication? If not, you may want to consider that safe disposal of unwanted medication is important to help prevent accidental poisoning of children or pets, accidental ingestion of an incorrect or ineffective medication, and can help reduce environmental contamination.


Luckily, April 26, 2014 is National Prescription Take-Back Day. This program provides safe disposal of unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medication for the public. To find a local disposal site, visit the Drug Enforcement Administration National Take-Back Initiative website. In addition to this national event, check with your local pharmacy. They may have an on-going program in place.


Take-back programs are your first, most ideal disposal option. However, Federal law prevents their acceptance of controlled substances such as narcotic pain medications. If you have controlled substances to dispose, or are unable to locate a take-back program in your area, a second option provided by the Environmental Protection Agency is as follows:

  • Remove the medication from its original container and mix it in with cat litter, coffee grounds or other undesirable substance.
  • Place the mixture in an empty margarine tub other sealable container.
  • Deface the information on the original medication container.
  • Both containers can now be discarded into the trash.

The least desirable method of medication disposal is flushing or pouring them down the drain. Water treatment methods are not very effective in treating pharmaceuticals out of water that ends up in waterways and drinking water supplies. Only flush medications when the label or package instructions specifically state to do so. For more information on what you should know about medication disposal, visit this FDA resource.



Lab Notes is a quarterly publication by the IUPUI Office of Environmental Health and Safety. Lab Notes is designed, edited and published by K. Lee Stone.

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