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Safe Medication Disposal for Households

New York State pharmacies can now apply to participate in a Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program to collect unwanted controlled and non-controlled medications from household consumers. Applications are due by May 1, 2017.

The best option is to take your medications to a nearby collection location.

Remember to keep all medications in a safe, secure place in your home out of reach of children and pets. It is best to properly dispose of medications (including controlled substances such as fentanyl, oxycodone, etc.) to ensure they will not be used in an unauthorized or accidental manner. Follow the instructions on the package or use one of the collection options below.

  • Refer to our NYS Medications Drop Box Locations map to find collection boxes near you. This comprehensive map includes drop boxes at pharmacies, law enforcement agencies, and other locations. Google Earth (free download) is required to view this map. If you cannot download Google Earth, the Department of Health has a map of participating law enforcement agency drop box locations you can access on your internet browser. See below.
  • The Department of Health (DOH) has placed collection boxes in select police stations. To find a collection box near you go to the NYS DOH 'Medication Drop Boxes by County' webpage (link leaves DEC website).
  • New York State Police Headquarters provide collection boxes 24/7 for household disposal. Headquarter locations are included on the Department of Health website given above, and an additional PDF can be found on the New York State Police Public Information page (link leaves DEC website).
  • Check with your local pharmacy to see if they sell or provide pre-addressed envelopes to mail unwanted medications for incineration.

As a last resort, follow the trash disposal instructions listed below:

a photo of liquid and pill medications with warnings on proper use and disposal
A portion of prescription and over-the-
counter medications will not be used
and if flushed or poured down the drain,
can end up in our rivers and streams
  • Treat medications (liquids and pills) by adding water and then salt, ashes, dirt, cat litter, coffee grounds, or another undesirable substance, to avoid accidental or intentional misuse of drugs. Do not conceal discarded drugs in food to prevent consumption by scavenging humans, pets or wildlife.
  • Hide all medications in an outer container, such as sealable bag, box or plastic tub to prevent discovery and removal from the trash. Seal the container with strong tape.
  • Dispose of drugs as close to your trash collection day as possible to avoid misuse and/or misdirection.

Note: Be careful in handling medications. Some drugs can cause harm if handled by people other than those to whom they were prescribed. Also, avoid crushing pills as some medications can be harmful in powder form.

Medications self-administered by injection with a needle or "sharp" may be disposed of in the trash. If such medications include an attached needle, they should be placed in a puncture proof container, sealed with tape and labeled as "sharps." However, the state strongly recommends that medications with attached needles be disposed of at hospital-based household sharps collection programs. All hospitals in New York State (except for federal facilities) are required to collect sharps from households. Additional collection programs may be available in your area.

Medications without attached needles may be disposed of in household trash as described above.

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