How to Dispose of Various Prescription Medications

Pharmaceutical Disposal

According to numerous studies, an alarming amount of pharmaceutical drugs are ending up in our lakes, rivers, and drinking water. How do they get here? Improper disposal by consumers and healthcare providers.

With so many different medications like over-the-counter medicines, controlled substances, non-controlled medications, and hazardous waste pharmaceuticals, it can be difficult to understand how to dispose of all of them properly.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drug Waste

OTC medications such as those given for head and body aches, can be purchased without a prescription. But that doesn’t mean unused drugs can be disposed of in the trash or down sinks or toilets. These drugs can be disposed of through mailback envelopes and drop-off receptacles.

Controlled Drug Waste

Controlled substances are categorized into five schedules “depending upon the drug’s acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential,” and must be managed according to the DEA.

Schedule I – Substances in this schedule have no currently accepted medical use in the United States. Think heroin.

Schedule II – Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse, which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. These include drugs like OxyContin and Percocet.

Schedule III –  Substances in this schedule have a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence. These are drugs like Tylenol with Codeine®.

Schedule IV – Substances in this schedule, like Xanax and Valium, have a low potential for abuse relative to substances in Schedule III.

Schedule V – Substances in this schedule, like Robitussin, have a low potential for abuse relative to substances listed in Schedule IV and consist primarily of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics.

New regulations introduced in 2014 allow physicians “Prompt on-site destruction; prompt delivery of controlled substances to a reverse distributor; and prompt delivery (for the purposes of return and recall) to the person from whom the controlled substance was obtained, the manufacturer, or a registrant authorized to accept returns on the manufacturer’s behalf.”

Non-Controlled/Non-Hazardous Prescription Drug Waste

These include medications used to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, and bacterial infections. Though more benign than some on this list, they can still be harmful if taken by those whom they are not prescribed, and should not end up in our waters and landfills.

Certain states have made it illegal for providers to throw these drugs away in the trash. They can instead be send for disposal ay a medical waste incinerator.


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Hazardous Drug Waste

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) defines a hazardous waste as “a waste that has the potential to cause or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious reversible or incapacitating reversible illness; or a waste that poses a substantial hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed.”

Because they are regulated, providers must dispose of these drugs as they do hazardous waste.

MedPro offers our customers an unwanted pharmaceuticals disposal program, a simple, cost-effective solution that will help you safely dispose of medications the right way.

SNIPPET: Improper disposal of RX medications contaminate the environment. Here’s how you can properly dispose of various medications.

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