It’s difficult to think about everything that needs to be done when grieving the loss of a loved one. Sorting through personal belongings is an emotional experience, but one of the most important things to consider is their medications.
Depending on whether they’re unused, the expiration date, and the ingredients, they should either be donated or disposed of properly. Different states and organizations have their own rules for handling medications, so make sure you’re aware of them.
Here’s a general reference guide for how to dispose of medications and where to donate them.
Where to Donate Medications
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly recommends removing unneeded medicines from your home to prevent anyone from intentionally abusing or accidentally taking them.
If they’re opened, expired, or close to expiration, they may not be eligible for donation. We’ll talk about how to dispose of these in the next section.
According to the FDA, they should be donated to an authorized collector, such as:
- Law enforcement locations
- Non-profit clinics
- Pharmacies (retail or clinic)
- Prescription drug collection programs and events
Follow this link from the DEA to find your local disposal locations.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regularly has National Prescription Drug Take-Back events for people to safely dispose of medications. The latest one was in April with more than 5,000 participating medication collection sites nationwide.
There are also programs for donating unused medications overseas, such as World Medical Relief. To donate to this program, they must be least six months before expiration in their sealed container or package. They also don’t accept any refrigerated medications.
How to Dispose of Medications
If you want to dispose of medications, you cannot just throw them in the trash by themselves. The FDA explains how to properly dispose of them in the trash with a few simple steps:
- Mix the medication with an inedible material, such as dirt, coffee grounds, or cat litter. (Note, don’t crush tablets or capsules.)
- Put the mixture in a sealed container or plastic bag and throw it in the trash.
- Before throwing out empty medication containers, remove or scratch off any personal information on the prescription label.
The FDA states there are a few medications you can dispose of by flushing them down a toilet or sink. Check out the FDA’s compiled list of medications recommended for disposal by flushing.
According to the FDA, “scientists have found no evidence of harmful effects to human health from medicines in the environment.” The FDA also works with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to better determine risks medicines may pose to our environment.
Even though you’re able to flush some medicines, the FDA recommends donating before flushing if possible.