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Information for Households

Recommended Drug Disposal Options

Where available, the best option is to take your medications to a local collection event.

See the schedule of pharmaceutical collection events in New York State.

While waiting for a collection event, keep all medications in a safe, secure place in your home out of reach of children and pets. If you cannot ensure that there will be no unauthorized or accidental use of the medications (including controlled substances such as fentanyl, oxycodone, etc) by children or others, it is best to dispose of them as soon as possible. Follow the instructions on the package or use the trash disposal steps listed below.

Note: Most Household Hazardous Waste Collections will not accept pharmaceuticals.

* Important information regarding controlled substances:
To guard against unauthorized use of controlled substance medications, the NYS Department of Health must approve events that collect these substances. Before you take controlled substances to a collection event, check with the event organizers to see if they are authorized to accept them.

If a pharmaceutical collection is not available, follow these steps to dispose of drugs in the trash:

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.

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

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