Properly Disposing Expired and Unneeded Medication Protects All Of Us


Having cancer will almost always mean that you will have medication in your home.  Some of these medicines can be dangerous if it is intentionally misused or accidentally gets into a child’s hands or a pet swallows them. 

Cancer treatments often include pills that manipulate your internal hormones, are toxic or contain opioids.  They also can require the use of a syringe.  When you have potentially dangerous drugs in your home, you must take precautions and safely secure them, or when no longer needed properly dispose of them.

1-    If you can open a child-resistant bottle ask that all your prescriptions come in a secure, child-resistant bottle.

2-    Keep all of these medications together, in one place where a pet, child or stranger cannot easily see them.

3-    Consider storing these drugs in a lock box where only you or your caregiver can have access.

4-    If you use patches for pain relief, make sure that you also secure any used patches.  When you finish using a patch, fold it in half so that the two sticky sides attached to each other.  Then immediate put the used patch in an enclosed receptacle, until you are able to dispose of them as recommended by the pharmacy.  Don’t leave them lying around.  


To learn how to best dispose any of these items speak with your physician, your pharmacist and carefully read the inserts and informational guides that come with the medication. 

Learn about any prescription take-back programs that would allow you to bring any unused or expired drugs or used syringes to a central location where they can be disposed of properly.  Find out about these programs by:

1-    Contacting local law enforcement at a non-emergency number.

2-    Contacting your local pharmacist.

3-     Go to the web page Dispose My Meds.  

4-    Call poison control at 1-800-222-1222.

5-    Visit the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s website for information on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Events.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that some opioid medication be flushed down the toilet.  Cancer ABCs, despite this FDA recommendation, is concerned about this practice and does not feel that it is a good practice.  Our clean water supply is vulnerable to what we put into our sewer and septic systems.  Before resorting to flushing take the time to look for an alternate disposal method.

Another potential safe way to dispose of unneeded medication is by removing the medication from the container, put the drugs into a sealable coffee can or plastic bag along with some undesirable materials like cat litter or used coffee grounds, but do not crush the medication.  Then place the mixture in the trash, not into any recycling.  Take the empty medicine containers and scratch-off from the label your name, the prescription number and the name of the medication.