Waste Management

 Household Pharmaceuticals

Last Updated: March 04, 2024
​​​​​​ OTC drugs in a pile

This page contains information on management and disposal options available to household consumers/military families for their unused, unwanted, expired and excess prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

Also provided are the options available for the safe disposal of medical syringes/sharps generated in the home and at installation child development services (CDS) facilities.

​National Drug Take Back Days

Drug Take Back Locations Available Year Round

APHC Guidance for Household Drug Disposal

APHC Guidance for Household and Child Development Services Syringe/Needle/Sharps Disposal​

National Drug Take Back Days

The next National Drug Take Back D​ay will be on
Saturday, 27 April 2024​

The DEA partners with local law enforcement in communities across the country to host National Take Back Days twice a year, once in the spring and onc​e in the fall.  During these events the public can safely and anonymously bring their unwanted prescription and over-the-counter drugs to keep them out of the hands of others and to protect the environment through proper disposal. 

The DEA and its partners will collect tablets, capsules, patches, and other solid forms of prescription drugs and OTCs.​

Liquids (including intravenous solutions), syringes and other sharps, and illegal drugs will not be accepted. 

For additional information and find a participating location near you, visit the DEA Take Back Day websiteExternal Link

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Drug Take Back Locations Available Year Round​

Did you miss one of the National Drug Take Back Days? 

No problem! DEA Authorized Collectors provide year round drop off locations to the public to dispose of their unwanted pharmaceuticals.

These Authorized Collectors include commercial pharmacies located in your community, as well as pharmacies located in our military installations' medical treatment facilities.

These participating locations provide a secure, designated collection receptacle available to the public during norm​al business hours for them to deposit their unwanted over-the-counter and prescription drugs themselves. The collection receptacles will have instructions posted on them for what is, and is not, accepted for disposal.

In addition of drop off boxes, some pharmacies may provide the patient with a self-addressed/postage-paid mail back envelope for them to use for the disposal of their excess prescription drugs. If the pharmacist provides this to you, they will also provide you instructions on its use.

To find an Authorized Collector near you, you can use the DEA Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locations - Search Utility​​External Link

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APHC Guidance for Household Drug Disposal

In addition to the National Drug Take Back Days and year-round DEA Authorized Collector locations, households with excess/unwanted prescription or over-the-counter drugs have other options available to them if they are unable to take advantage of these programs.

Disposal in Household Garbage. To avoid potential drug abuse or accidental poisoning, disposal in the household can be conducted by mixing the unwanted drugs with an unpalatable substance (such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds) within a sealed container (like a used detergent bottle) and placed in the general trash.

Flushing Down the Toilet or Sink. To protect our waterways and keep unused drugs from contaminating our drinking water, flushing of medications down a toilet or sink should only be done for those drugs specifically on the Food and Drug Administration Flush List​External Link​, which is used for those drugs that are sought-after for their misuse and/or abuse potential or that can result in death from one dose if inappropriately taken.

Available APHC Reference Documents​

APHC Factsheet Di​sposal of U.S. Household Waste Pharmaceuticals​​. Waste p​​​harmaceuticals generated in households are exempt from regulations governing controlled substances and hazardous waste, but should be managed and disposed to reduce the potential for abus​e or accidental poisoning and to minimize negative effects on the environment. This fact sheet addresses waste medications generated in the home and provides sound disposal options.​​

APHC Flyer Got Meds? Consumer Medication Flyer. An informational flyer for use by MTF pharmacies to provide to patients/consumers which summarizes unwanted household medication​ disposal options, to include weblinks to the FDA Flush List.

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APHC Guidance for Household and Child Development Services Syringe/Needle/Sharps Disposal

Unless prohibited by state/local regulations or your trash hauler, household generated sharps (items used to inject medications at home, such as hypodermic needles, syringes with needles attached, insulin pens, etc.), can be disposed of in your household trash. 

However, care should be taken to ensure everyone involved, from the people in your household, to the people picking up the trash, and finally the people at the disposal facility, are protected from accidentally being stuck by them. Sharps waste should never be thrown loosely in the trash or flushed down a toilet.

Options for disposal of household sharps include, where available:

  • Placing the waste sharps in a rigid, puncture and leak-resistant container with a secure lid or cap prior to placing in the trash;
  • Using a community-sponsored special waste hauler who collect sharps containers directly from residents;
  • Taking them to a drop-off collection site;
  • Using a commercial “mail-back" container program;
  • Taking them to a community-based syringe exchange program (SEP); or
  • Using a commercially available “at-home" needle destruction device to destroy the needle, after which the syringe can be placed in the trash.

Additionally, Child Development Services (CDS) caregivers may need to administer medicines for certain illnesses on behalf of a child's parents while the child is at the CDS facility. While these CDS facilities are not regulated as would be a medical treatment facility, there are still considerations, to include any state/local regulations, host installation requirements, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogen Standard (BBPS) requirements.​​

Available APHC Reference Documents

APHC Factsheet Household Medical Sharps Management. Provide​s considerations and steps to take in order to safely dispose of syringes/sharps generated in the home as household trash, as well as provides a discussion on other disposal services and programs that may be available locally in your area. Finally, the factsheet lists additional internet sources of information for household syringes/sharps disposal.​


APHC Flyer ​ Household Sharps Disposal.  An informational flyer to educate the public on what to do, and not to do, when disposing of their household generated syringes/sharps.​​

APHC Technical Information Paper Waste Management of Medical Sharps Used on Children in Child Development Facilities.  Provides the regulatory background and disposal guidance for syring​e/sharps administered to children in military Child Development Facilities (including Child Development Centers a​nd Supplemental Programs and Services Facilities). Includ​es considerations for the type of syringe/sharps collection container to be used, safe placement and storage in the facility, handling of the syringes/sharps, and disposal of the container.​