Drug Take-Back Programs are the safest method for disposing of prescription drugs because they are organized and closely monitored by local, state, and federal government agencies. These agencies ensure and oversee the proper disposal of the drugs in accordance with federal law. Check with your pharmacist and local law enforcement agency for more information about drug-take back days and locations.  Here are two drug disposal locator tools:


DEA Diversion

Certain Local Pharmacies are authorized to collect drugs for destruction, and the Board of Pharmacy maintains a list of those authorized collectors, and the DEA has a locator of public disposal locations.

Home Disposal has risks of diversion and environmental contamination, but when completed correctly is a viable option if a take back program is not available.

  • Step 1– Remove medications from their original containers. If the medication is solid, crush it or add water to dissolve it and then mix the medication with an undesirable substance, such as kitty litter or coffee grounds. This makes the mixture unattractive to children and pets and unrecognizable to potential abusers who may go through your trash.
  • Step 2– Place the mixture in a container with a lid or in a sealable baggie to prevent the medication from leaking, and throw it into the trash.
  • Step 3- When discarding the original containers, scratch out or remove identifiers on the bottle and/or packaging. Remember: DO NOT dispose of medications in the toilet or sink, unless specifically instructed to on the label. DO NOT give medicine to friends or family. This is not only potentially illegal, but a drug that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.

For more information, check out the FDA’s Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know webpage.

A note on Environmental Contamination- Many people believe that flushing or simply throwing away drugs is the best way to dispose of medications; however, if not disposed of properly, the drugs can contaminate the ground and waterways. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove or process many compounds found in medications. Instead, when flushed or put in a landfill, the drugs are discharged into our surface and ground water. Pharmaceutical contaminants in water have been shown to cause serious harm to fish and wildlife living in and near rivers and lakes. Humans can also be exposed to these chemicals when they drink water drawn from contaminated bodies of water or eat wild game or fish.

Learn More

  • The Virginia Board of Pharmacy offers a comprehensive list of authorized collectors of drugs for safe destruction.
  • The AwareRX Pharmacy offers a wealth of resources on the proper use, storage and disposal of prescription drugs.
  • Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration details best practices for safe disposal of unused medications.
  • Learn more about proper storage of prescription drugs on the homepage of Safeguard My Meds.
  • The National Council on Patient Information and Education’s “Tips on Safe Storage and Disposal of Your Prescription Medicines” give specific recommendations for the safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs.  Click through the document below to learn more.