How to Dispose of Medications after a Death – 2022 Update

Adult Wondering How to Dispose of Medications after a Death

Disposing of medications after a death in the family is one thing that needs to be done by grieving loved ones. Keeping unused medicines after they are no longer needed may cause unnecessary risk, especially if there are children in the home.

Exposure to dangerous medicine in the home is a major cause of unintentional poisoning in children. According to the FDA, approximately 60,000 emergency cases and 450,000 poisoning cases are made after children below six years old accidentally ingest the medication.

The agency strongly recommends that the survivors remove unneeded medicines from their homes to prevent anyone from accidentally taking or intentionally abusing them.

Especially important are narcotic pain relievers and other controlled substances that contain opioids. The leftover opioid prescription can easily be used unintentionally or illegally abused.

Keep children, pets, and loved ones safe by proper ways to dispose of medications after death. Ensure unused medicines are not accidentally touched, ingested, or misused.

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HOW TO DISPOSE OF MEDICATIONS AFTER A DEATH

Depending on the expiration date and the ingredients, unused medications should either be donated or disposed of properly.

Here are the things you should not do with unused medicines:

  1. Do not put the medication in the recycle bin.
  2. Do not give medication to anyone else, even if your friend or relative has the same ailments. Doctors prescribe medications depending on that person’s specific symptoms. A drug that works for your deceased loved ones may be dangerous to someone else.
  3. Do not put the medicines in the trash without dissolving them – scavengers, both humans or animals, may find them and misuse them.
  4. Don’t flush the medication down the toilet. Drugs that are flushed in the toilet go into our waterways and pollute the environment.


WAYS TO DISPOSE OF MEDICATIONS AFTER A DEATH

1. TAKE-BACK PROGRAMS

The new federal laws created the take-back program to help people safely dispose of unused medications. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regularly conducts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events that enable the public to bring unused medications to an accessible location for proper disposal.

It is illegal for doctors, hospitals, or pharmacies to take back medicines that have already been prescribed. The best way to dispose of unused drugs is to take them to the take-back site.

Unused, unwanted, or expired medication, either prescribed or over the counter, can be dropped off at the drug take-back location. The collected medicines are destroyed at regulated incinerators.

Take-back locations do not accept needles, injectables, or intravenous solutions.

Authorized take-back collectors may include hospitals, pharmacies, and local law enforcement agencies.

Other take-back options include:

  • Take-back events – the Drug Enforcement Administration designate a specific day for people to take their unused medications to a central collection place.
  • Disposal by mail – check if your pharmacy offers mail-back envelopes for prescription drug disposal.
  • Collection receptacles – you can find secure drug collection receptacles in many communities.

Call your county or city government to see if a take-back program is available near your area.

2. DONATION

Medicines that are opened, closed to expiration, or expired are not eligible for donation.

If the unused medication is unexpired, sealed, and not a narcotic or opioid, the best thing to do is to donate it. Some states have recently passed laws allowing people to donate unused medicines.

You may be able to donate to charitable pharmacies and clinics after your medications are inspected by the institution and meet strict quality and safety standards.

You can give your donation to authorized collectors such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Non-profit clinics
  • Law enforcement collection sites
  • Pharmacies
  • Prescription drug collection programs

Find your local disposal locations by clicking this link.

Donated medications are given to patients with no life insurance, low income, or those who can’t afford the high cost of medications. The rising costs of drugs and saving someone in need makes donating your medicine the best option for disposal.

Some programs for donating unused medications overseas, like the World Medical Relief. If you want to donate to this program, the medications must be at least six months before expiration. They must be put in a sealed container or package.

Refrigerated medications are not accepted.

There are also some private programs for donating unused medications, like Sirum. This program is used by 200 donating facilities and other receiving organizations, such as federal and county-owned health centers and clinics that serve low-income patients.

Drug donation is the best option because it means less waste and prevents the unused medication from polluting the environment. It also helps the recipients financially because they don’t have to buy newly manufactured meds.

3. FLUSHING

Another way to dispose of medication after death is by flushing medications down the sink or toilet. Flushing should be done only if the label instructs you to do so (remember that these medications will often go to our local water treatment plants, lakes, or rivers to be used for drinking water….not good!).

If a take-back program is not available in your area and the unused medication appears on the FDA’s “flush list,” you can flush the medication down the toilet or sink. 

Flushing should be used to eliminate the risk of harm to children in the home or drug overuse. It is a quick removal method of medications to prevent accidental exposure.

The FDA Flush List enumerates old, unused, unwanted, or expired medicines to immediately flush on the toilet or sink when take-back options are unavailable.

WHAT MEDICATIONS CAN BE FLUSHED?

List of medications you can safely flush:

  • Avinza
  • Buprenorphine
  • Daytrana
  • Demerol tablets
  • Demerol oral solution
  • Diastat
  • Dilaudid tablets
  • Dilaudid oral liquid
  • Dolophine Hydrochloride
  • Duragesic
  • Embeda
  • Exalgo
  • Fentora
  • Kadlan
  • Methadone Hydrochloride
  • Methadose
  • Morphine Sulfate tablets
  • Morphine Sulfate oral solution
  • M.S. Contin
  • Nucynta ER
  • Onsolis
  • Opana
  • Opana ER
  • Oxecta
  • Oxycodone Hydrochloride capsules
  • Oxycodone Hydrochloride oral solution
  • Oxycontin
  • Percocet
  • Percodan
  • Vicodin
  • Xyrem

You can find the complete revised listing on FDA’s Web page on “Disposal of Unused Medicines”

These medicines should be immediately flushed down the drain when they are no longer needed to prevent accidental ingestion. Most of these medicines are narcotics or opiates.

These drugs should not be thrown in the trash because they may still provide an opportunity for a child or pet to ingest the medicine accidentally.

In most cases, they are especially harmful, with just one dose if they are taken by someone other than the person it is prescribed to. Some of the adverse effects include breathing difficulties or heart problems that could lead to death.

For example, a fentanyl patch is an adhesive patch used to relieve pain. It comes with instructions to flush after use or any leftover patches.

Too much fentanyl can cause severe breathing problems that may lead to death in babies, children, and pets. Adults may also die from a fentanyl overdose, especially if it is not prescribed to them.

The most common drugs used in prescription overdose deaths are oxycodone, methadone, and hydrocodone. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of opioid overdoses involve prescription opioids.

Immediately flushing the medicines in the flush list keeps pets, children, and other individuals safe by making sure these potentially dangerous drugs are not accidentally touched, ingested, or misused.

WILL FLUSHING MEDICINES HARM THE ENVIRONMENT?

Some reports show traces of prescription medications have been found in streams and lakes. While the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency take this threat seriously, FDA officials said that most of these traces come from the feces and urine of people taking these drugs.

The agency further explains that there has been no indication of environmental effects due to flushing medications.

According to EPA, scientists to date have found no evidence of adverse effects from drug residues in the environment. However, they do not want to add drug residues to water systems unnecessarily.

FDA believes that the known risk of harm that these medicines can do to humans from accidental or illicit use far outweighs the potential risk to human health and the environment.

However, FDA will continue to conduct a risk assessment as part of a more extensive activity related to the safe use and disposal of medicines.

4. DISPOSE OF IN THE TRASH

If the medication is not on the flush list, you should follow these instructions to dispose of the medicine in your trash at home:

  1. Do not crush the pills. Keep the medications in their original container to help identify the contents if they are accidentally ingested.
  2. Remove or mark out your personal information to make it unreadable, but leave the name and dose of the medication on the container. Blacken your name and prescription number for safety. This will protect your identity and the privacy of your health information.
  3. Add some inedible substance to the medication and then replace the lid.
  4. For pills: add some soda or water to dissolve the pills.
  5. For liquid: add something inedible like cayenne pepper, dirt, or cat litter.
  6. Put the medicines in a leak-proof container like a coffee can.
  7. Place the bottle or blister packs inside an opaque container like a plastic laundry bottle or coffee can.
  8. Close the lid and secure it with packaging or duct tape
  9. Hide the container in the trash
  10. Dispose of the trash as close to pick-up day as possible.

Don’t let your unused medication pose a safety hazard. By following these easy medication disposal steps, you can ensure the safety of our children and pets in our household.

You must dispose of medications after death the right way. By working together, we can all reduce the incidence of poisoning and medication abuse by properly disposing of medications.

For more information on how to dispose of medications after a death, please visit the following links:

Printable: Consumer Health Information

How to Dispose of Unused Medicines

Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know

Where and How to Dispose of Unused Medicines


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ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ON HOW TO DISPOSE OF MEDICATIONS AFTER A DEATH

Why do you need to dispose of medications after death?

There are a few reasons:

  • To prevent others from accidentally taking the wrong medication
  • To keep people safe from potential drug interactions
  • To protect the environment from harmful chemicals


Is it necessary to dispose of unused medication?

It depends. If the medications are no longer needed or expired, then it is probably best to dispose of them. If others still need the medications in the household, then you may want to keep them and just make sure they are stored out of reach of children.


How should you dispose of medications?

The best way to dispose of medications is to take them to your local pharmacy, where they can be safely disposed of in an approved manner. Some pharmacies may also have drop-off locations where you can leave your unwanted medication in a secure container. You can also talk to your healthcare provider about other disposal options, such as mailing unused medications back to the manufacturer or throwing them out in the trash. Whatever you do, it is important to be careful and follow all local regulations for the safe disposal of medications.


What is the safest way of medication disposal?

There is no one “right” way to dispose of medications, as different methods may be more or less appropriate depending on the situation. However, some general guidelines include taking your unused medications to a pharmacy or local drop-off point, mailing unused medication back to the manufacturer, or throwing it out in the trash with other household waste.


How to dispose of unused medicines?

There are a few different methods for disposing of unused medicines, including taking them to your local pharmacy, mailing them back to the manufacturer, or disposing of them in the trash. It is important to be aware of any local regulations and to follow these guidelines carefully when getting rid of unwanted medications.


Where can I dispose of unused medicines?

There are a few different places where you can dispose of unused medicines, including your local pharmacy, a local drop-off point, or mailing them back to the manufacturer. You can also talk to your healthcare provider about other disposal options.


How do I find a medicine disposal location near me?

There are a few different ways to find a medicine disposal location near you, including asking your local pharmacy, searching online, or contacting your local government. You can also talk to your healthcare provider about other disposal options.


What should I do with unused medicine?

There are a few different options for disposing of unused medicine, including taking them to your local pharmacy, mailing them back to the manufacturer, or disposing of them in the trash. It is important to be aware of any local regulations and to follow these guidelines carefully when getting rid of unwanted medications.


How do I safely dispose of expired or unused medicine?

There are a few different options for disposing of expired or unused medicine, including taking them to your local pharmacy, mailing them back to the manufacturer, or disposing of them in the trash. It is important to be aware of any local regulations and to follow these guidelines carefully when getting rid of unwanted medications.


Can I flush my medicine down the toilet?

You should not flush your medicine down the toilet unless the instructions on the package say that it is okay to do so. If you have unused or expired medication, your best option is usually to take it to a pharmacy or local drop-off point for safe disposal. However, you should always follow any specific instructions provided by your healthcare provider or the manufacturer of the medicine when deciding how to dispose of it.


Are there local organizations that can help me dispose of my unused medicine?

Yes, many local organizations, such as pharmacies and government agencies, may offer assistance with the safe disposal of unused medicines. You can contact your local pharmacy or search online to find organizations in your area that provide this service. Additionally, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about other options


Is it safe to flush medicine down the toilet?

Most experts agree that flushing unused medications down the toilet can pose a health risk and should generally be avoided. If you have unused or expired medication, your best option is usually to take it to a pharmacy or local drop-off point for safe disposal. However, you should always follow any specific instructions provided by your healthcare provider or the manufacturer of the medicine when deciding how to dispose of it.


What are some tips for safely disposing of unused medications?

Some tips for safely disposing of unused medications include taking them to your local pharmacy, mailing them back to the manufacturer, or disposing of them in the trash. It is important to be aware of any local regulations and to follow these guidelines carefully when getting rid of unwanted medications. You may also want to talk to your healthcare provider about other disposal options.


How do I dispose of prescription medications?

The best way to dispose of prescription medications is to take them to your local pharmacy or a local drop-off point. You can also talk to your healthcare provider about other options.


Can I just throw my medicine in the trash?

You should not just throw your medicine in the trash unless the instructions on the package say that it is okay to do so. If you have unused or expired medication, your best option is usually to take it to a pharmacy or local drop-off point for safe disposal. However, you should always follow any specific instructions provided by your healthcare provider or the manufacturer of the medicine when deciding how to dispose of it.


When to get rid of unused medicines?

Most medicines should be disposed of after their expiration date or when they are no longer needed. You should check with your healthcare provider or the packaging instructions for specific guidelines about how and when to dispose of a particular medication.


How can I get rid of unused medicines?

There are a few different options for disposing of expired or unused medicines, including taking them to your local pharmacy, mailing them back to the manufacturer, or disposing of them in the trash. It is important to be aware of any local regulations and to follow these guidelines carefully when getting rid of unwanted medications.


Who should I call if I want to dispose of prescription meds?

If you want to dispose of prescription medications, your best bet is to take them to your local pharmacy or a local drop-off point. You can also talk to your healthcare provider about other options.


Can I flush medicine down the sink or toilet?

Most experts agree that flushing unused medications down the toilet can pose a health risk and should generally be avoided. If you have unused or expired medication, your best option is usually to take it to a pharmacy or local drop-off point for safe disposal. However, you should always follow any specific instructions provided by your healthcare provider or the manufacturer of the medicine when deciding how to dispose of it.


What are some ways that I can safely dispose of medicine?

Some ways to safely dispose of unwanted medicine include taking it to your local pharmacy, mailing it back to the manufacturer, or putting it in the trash. It is important to be aware of any local regulations and to follow these guidelines carefully when getting rid of medications.


When is the DEA National Takeback?

The DEA National Takeback is an annual event held in October to allow people to safely dispose of unwanted medications. You can find out more about the next event and how to participate on the DEA website.


How do I find a drug takeback location near me?

There are several ways you can locate a drug takeback location near you. You can check the website of your local government or law enforcement agency, or search for “drug takeback locations” in your area online. Alternatively, you can also call your local pharmacy to see if they offer drug takeback services.


What should I do with unused medications?

If you have unused or expired medications, it is important to dispose of them safely to avoid any potential risks. Some ways to do this include taking them to your local pharmacy or a local drop-off point, mailing them back to the manufacturer, or putting them in the trash. It is important to be aware of any local regulations and to follow these guidelines carefully when getting rid of unwanted medications.


What are the steps to dispose of medications?

There are a few different options for disposing of medications, including taking them to your local pharmacy or a local drop-off point, mailing them back to the manufacturer, or putting them in the trash. It is important to be aware of any local regulations and to follow these guidelines carefully when getting rid of unwanted medications.


Where can I find the drug dropbox?

You can find the drug dropbox at many pharmacies, local law enforcement agencies, and other community locations. You can also check your local government website or do an online search to find a nearby dropbox location. It is important to follow any specific guidelines or instructions provided by the manufacturer when disposing of medications in this way.


What are the things you should not do with unused medicines?

Flushing unused medications down the toilet can pose a health risk and should generally be avoided. If you have unused or expired medication, your best option is usually to take it to a pharmacy or local drop-off point for safe disposal.


Why it is not advisable to give medicines to anyone when you don’t need it?

When you give someone your unused medication, you no longer have control over how that person uses it. They may not take the medication as prescribed, or they may share it with others, which can be dangerous. It is important to dispose of unwanted medications in a safe and controlled manner to avoid any potential risks.


How should I store my unused medications?

It is important to store your unused medications in a safe and secure place, away from children or pets. Ideally, you should keep them in their original packaging and store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. If possible, you may also want to consider using a locked cabinet or medicine box to further protect your medication.


How can I donate my unused medicines?

There are several organizations that work to collect and distribute unused medicines, including local community pharmacies and Good Samaritan groups. To learn more about donating your unused medications, you can contact these organizations directly or do an online search for “donate unused medicine.”


What are the risks of not disposing of my unused medications properly?

If you do not dispose of your unused medications properly, they may be exposed to children or pets, which can lead to accidental ingestion or other health risks. Additionally, there is a risk that the drugs could get into the wrong hands and be misused or abused. For these reasons, it is important to take precautions when disposing of unwanted medicines.


Where can I donate my unused medicines?

There are several organizations that work to collect and distribute unused medicines, including local community pharmacies and Good Samaritan groups. To learn more about donating your unused medications, you can contact these organizations directly or do an online search for “donate unused medicine.”


What are the risks of not disposing of my unused medications properly?

If you do not dispose of your unused medications properly, they may be exposed to children or pets, which can lead to accidental ingestion or other health risks. Additionally, there is a risk that the drugs could get into the wrong hands and be misused or abused. For these reasons, it is important to take precautions when disposing of unwanted medicines.


What kind of medicines are not accepted by drug donation drives?

There are some types of medicines that are typically not accepted by drug donation drives, including controlled substances such as opioids and benzodiazepines. Additionally, certain drugs may have specific disposal instructions or guidelines that must be followed in order to ensure safe disposal. To learn more about what kind of medicines can or cannot be donated, you should contact your local donation drive organization directly.


Will flushing medicines harm the environment?

There is some concern that flushing unused medicines down the toilet could potentially harm the environment, as it can lead to drug contamination in water supplies. However, most organizations recommend safe disposal methods such as taking unwanted medication to a pharmacy or drop-off point. To learn more about how to safely dispose of unused medications, you should speak with your healthcare provider or local drug donation organization.

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