How Should I Get Rid of Old Prescription Pills?

Read this before you flush them.

Q: If you're not supposed to flush old prescription pills, what's the right way to get rid of them?

Oz Says: You may be able to take them back to the pharmacy—many across the country have just implemented take-back programs for leftover pills (this used to be prohibited, but recent legal changes have made it possible). The stores generally work with companies that can incinerate or partially recycle parts of the pills. This is better for the environment than flushing them into the sewage system or letting them leech into the ground at a trash dump, says Carolyn Ha, Pharm.D., a spokesperson for the National Community Pharmacists Association. You can find a participating pharmacy at disposemymeds.org.

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Nothing near you? Local police stations will sometimes take them off your hands, too. Some pharmacy chains sell envelopes for a few dollars that are specifically intended for medicine disposal; you drop the pills in and send it to a medication incinerator.

The only time you should flush drugs, according to the FDA, is if none of the above options are available and you're worried about having a dangerous medication in the house (like the powerful—and often abused—painkiller oxycodone). In this case, the FDA would rather have you send pills into the sewer than leave them where people can find (and use) them.

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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