Unwanted Medications

Safe Disposal of Unused Medicine

Keeping medications that are no longer useful is a bad idea.

Consumers and caregivers should remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicine from their home as quickly as possible and properly dispose of it to help reduce the chance that others may accidentally take or intentionally misuse the medicine.

Take-back programs provide collection sites to safely dispose of unwanted medicine. It is important to learn what medicine is accepted and what is not. Medications often accepted include prescriptions and over-the-counter ointments/creams, liquids/syrups, pet medications, prescription patches, and vitamins. Generally needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, and illegal drugs are not accepted.

Always check what is accepted before going to a collection site.

Here are take-back options that may be available in your community:

  • Search for year-round disposal sites in your area. 
  • CVS Pharmacy offers drop-off collection sites at some of its retail locations through its Safer Communities program. Find a location near you. This list also provides collection centers offered by law enforcement departments.
  • Walgreens offers medication disposal kiosks at select locations. Find a location near you.
  • Dispose my Meds provides information on medication disposal programs at independent pharmacies. Learn more and search for possible locations.
  • The Biannual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is set for Saturday, April 27, 2024. The event, which is sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, sets up a nationwide network of collection sites. Learn more and find collection sites.
  • Ask your pharmacist if they know of other medicine disposal programs in your area.
  • Ask your local recycling coordinator if they know of any disposal programs in your area. Visit RecycleHereSC for contact information.
  • Many law enforcement departments in South Carolina offer take-back programs. Call your local department to learn what options may be available in your community.

It is important to note that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control does not accept unwanted medicine at any of its offices.

Disposing of Unused Medicine in your Household Trash

If a take-back or mail back program is not available to you, most other unused or expired medicines can be disposed of in your household trash. Here are recommended steps to follow:

  • Remove your unwanted medicines from their original containers.
  • Mix the medicine (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an undesirable substance such as cat litter, dirt, flour or used coffee grounds.
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag or empty margarine tub.
  • Throw the container in your household trash.

Don't Flush or Pour Down the Drain

Keeping prescription and over-the-counter medicine out of the environment is important. After being flushed or poured down a drain many medicines pass through sewer and septic systems. Because these systems cannot always treat or remove the medicines, they may end up in streams, lakes and groundwater. This can cause adverse effects in fish and other aquatic wildlife as well as unintentional human exposure.

Disposing of Needles, Syringes, and Other "Sharps"

Many people have medical conditions that require injections at home. These needles, syringes, and lancets (or "sharps") must be disposed of properly. This will ensure that other people, especially sanitation workers, will not be "stuck" or cut. Learn more.