Medically Approved

Earth-Friendly medication disposal

Earth-Friendly medication disposal

Optum Perks Author

By Optum Perks Author

Mother Earth doesn’t want your old medication

Lately, the call to use less, recycle more, and care more for our natural resources has taken on greater urgency. What better time than Earth Day to provide some tips on how to dispose of medicines lower the impact on our water supply.


Flushing medications down the toilet or drain may be quick and convenient, but it’s also very harmful to humans, fish and other aquatic creatures. And while local water treatment plants are able to remove harmful bacteria and other contaminants, they cannot remove medications. In other words, medications may end up in our drinking water and the water we use for cooking.

Safe medication disposal – you’ve got options

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on the front lines of responsible medicine disposal. They stress “take back” options as the first and best choice for disposing of unwanted or expired medication.


The fastest way to find a take back site is to visit the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Controlled Substance Public Disposal Location page. Simply enter your zip code or city and state and the search area you’d like to use (5 to 50 miles from your location) to get a list of take back locations where you can drop off unwanted or expired medications. Many times, take back locations are pharmacies and health care facilities.

The FDA has a “flush list” of medications that are generally known to have less impact on the health of wildlife or humans if flushed. They stress that taking medications to an official drop off site should still be your first choice.

1. FDA “flush list”

Printable version of this list (PDF; Revised April 2018)
Active Ingredients Found in Brand Names (Click links to view medicine instructions)
Benzhydrocodone/ Acetaminophen Apadaz
Buprenorphine BelbucaBunavailButransSuboxoneSubutexZubsolv
Diazepam DiastatDiastat AcuDial rectal gel
Fentanyl AbstralActiqDuragesicFentoraOnsolis
Hydrocodone Anexsia, Hysingla ER, Lortab, Norco, Reprexain, Vicodin, VicoprofenZohydro ER
Hydromorphone DilaudidExalgo
Meperidine Demerol
Methadone DolophineMethadose
Methylphenidate Daytrana transdermal patch system
Morphine Arymo EREmbedaKadianMorphabond ERMS ContinAvinza
Oxycodone CombunoxOxaydo (formerly Oxecta), OxyContinPercocetPercodan, Roxicet, RoxicodoneTarginiq ERXartemis XRXtampza ERRoxybond
Oxymorphone Opana, Opana ER
Sodium Oxybate Xyrem oral solution
Tapentadol NucyntaNucynta ER


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Medication not on the “flush list”? Here’s what you need to know

It may not always be possible to bring your unwanted medicines to a drug take back location. You may live in an area where no locations exist, or you may need to get rid of medication quickly before they cause harm to someone in your household. If your medication is not on the “flush” list, follow these steps from the FDA to get rid of it in your trash at home.

  1. Mix medications (liquid, pills, capsules) with dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds. Do NOT crush tablets or capsules.
  2. Place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag or container with a lid.
  3. Place the bag or container in your trash at home.
  4. Remove any labels to delete all personal information on the prescription bottle or package. Recycle the empty bottle or packaging, or throw it away in your trash.

2. Safe Opioid Disposal – FDA Remove the Risk Program

The opioid crisis in the U.S. has shown we need to be hypervigilant about properly disposing of unused opioid pain medications. The FDA has a program called Remove the Risk, which spotlights the hazards of storing unused opioid pain medications in your home. Here’s where you can find the Remove the Risk toolkit and related materials.


It’s worth the time and effort to make safe medicine disposal a priority for your own health and peace of mind and for the sake of the environment. Use the links in this article to find drug take back locations near you.