Time to Dispose of Your Prescription Opioids

Written by Buprenorphine Doctors

Whenever your doctor prescribes you painkillers, there’s a catch: the pills themselves might linger around your house. But what does that mean to you?

It could mean the risk of addiction. We’ve written before on how it’s easy to misuse prescription opioids (whether you take too many of them, lend them to friends and family, or take them for non-medical reasons). But keeping your prescribed opioids when you no longer need them can make that abuse much easier. So we wanted to explain how you can dispose of them.

What You Can Do

Start by looking at your own medicine cabinet. Where are your painkillers? Do you still need to take them? If you have leftover pills, those are the one you should dispose of. There’s no reason to keep leftover opioids in the house if you’ve finished your treatment.

Find a Takeback Location

The good news is that the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has already helped Americans dispose of their unused opioids. That’s why they register certain facilities and businesses across the country to receive and dispose of unused opioids.

You can find these locations in a few different places. One might be in a pharmacy, but another might be in a hospital. Still another might be in a police or sheriff’s department. Take a look here to find an opioid disposal site near you. These places are the permanent places which the FDA has set in communities for people just like you.

But you can also visit a periodic event, if there’s not a permanent location near you. These are regular days when the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other law enforcement bodies set up temporary takeback sites where people can dispose of their unused drugs.

One such event happened just last week, on October 26. That Saturday was “National Prescription Drug Takeback Day.” This event’s drug disposal lasted from 10 am to 2 pm (it’s a common timeframe for these periodic events). And events just like it will happen again. You can call up your local waste management authorities or law enforcement to get the exact dates and times.

Dispose of the Opioids Yourself

You can get rid of your unused opioids if your community doesn’t have any disposal sites, and if there won’t be any disposal events nearby for a while. Make sure to use those resources, but if you can’t, you should still get rid of the leftover opioids as soon as you can.

Here you also have two options for disposal: flushing the drugs down the toilet or putting them in the trash. But each one has its own rules for safety.

The Flush List

Some medications are on the FDA’s Flush List—it just means that the medication isn’t safe enough to leave in the trash where anyone else might find it. You might find a label on the opioids themselves that tells you  it’s alright to flush (most opioids are on the list), but if you’d rather look directly at the whole list yourself, we’ve got it here.

Here are some opioids on the Flush List: 

  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone

Remember to only flush your leftover opioids only if you can’t get to a disposal site, and only if you find the opioid on the FDA’s list. Add when you’ve established both of these, flush the opioids immediately.

The Trash Disposal

This way of disposing of your opioids is also the last resort. You should only take it if there are no disposal sites nearby, no periodic events coming up soon, and if the drugs aren’t on the FDA’s flush list. And so, if you have to, here’s what you can do to safely get rid of your opioids in the trash.

Visit this page (again from the FDA) which lays out the step-by-step instructions. You’ll have to dispose of the opioids themselves and the prescription container you’d stored them in. We can simplify the FDA’s four steps to two instead:

  1. Mix your intact pills up with something no one would touch (like dirt or cat litter), and then seal the mixture tightly in a plastic bag (put that bag in the trash).
  2. Cross out our mark-through the opioids’ empty container so no one can identify your name or address on it, and then add it to the trash.

If you want to see all the steps and all their explanations, visit the page.

So What Now?

Start considering what you can do to get extra opioids out of your house. Are there drug takeback sites near you? Will the DEA host an opioid disposal event in your community? Or will you have to dispose of your opioids yourself?

You can see that getting rid of extra prescription opioids isn’t too much work: we’ve only asked three questions. But prescription opioids carry a high risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that around 35% of all opioid overdoses are prescription-related, and that their toll is about 46 fatalities each day. Sure, getting rid of your extra opioids won’t fix all these problems. But it could mean that these prescriptions become a little less available, and it takes very little effort to do that much.

If you have more questions, visit the FDA’s disposal campaign and see what you can find. You can also learn a little more about prescription opioids, opioid addiction, and addiction treatments at Buprenorphine Doctors. We gather opioid addiction resources like doctors and treatment centers, all just in case anyone needs to find them. See how we can help you today!


Buprenorphine Doctors