The Proper Way to Dispose of Unused Medications in South Carolina

spilled medicine bottle with various medications

If you are like me, you have a medicine cabinet full of medications that are either expired or you will never use. So, what’s the best way to safety get rid of them?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, “a small number of medicines may be especially harmful if taken by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed. Many of these medicines have specific disposal instructions on their labeling or patient information leaflet to immediately flush them down the sink or toilet when they are no longer needed.”

But can flushing medications be harmful? Ask Your Pharmacist says it could be. “A recent study shows that 80 percent of U.S. streams contain small amounts of human medicines. Sewage systems cannot remove these medicines from water that is released into lakes, rivers or oceans. And, even very small amounts of medicine have been found in drinking water.”

The best option may be a community-based drug “take-back” program. In South Carolina, take-back locations are available all over the state. Check this list to find a location nearby. There is also a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on September 26. The national campaign “aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.”

Here are some tips provided by the Food and Drug Administration that will be useful to you.

  • Follow any specific disposal instructions on the prescription drug labeling or patient information that accompanies the medicine. Do not flush medicines down the sink or toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.
  • Scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.
  • Do not give your medicine to friends. Doctors prescribe medicines based on your specific symptoms and medical history. Something that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.