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How Can I Dispose of Unused Medication?

Charlotte Hendricks, PhD

March 30, 2020

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Question

How can I dispose of unused medication?

Answer

  • Follow disposal instructions on medication container, if listed.
  • Participate in community drug take-back programs.
  • Ask a local pharmacist about proper disposal methods.
  • Properly dispose of sharps and other equipment.

You can go online and find out exactly how to dispose of medication. The container may have disposal instructions, there are community drug take-back programs, or you can ask a local pharmacist about it. If you are using injections or any other equipment, always properly dispose of sharps and other equipment. This is important for home visitors to tell parents how to dispose of expired medications. Don't throw it in a trash can because people go through trash looking for medications, and of course, children may go through trash. Also, pets get into garbage cans and you don't want anyone or anything to get the medication. 

  • Pour medication into sealable plastic bag. Add water to dissolve pills and capsules.
  • Add kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds, soil, or other non-food material. Mix with the medication.
  • Seal the bag and put it in the trash.
  • Remove and destroy all identifying personal information from medication containers before recycling or throwing away.
  • Document all medication disposed.

As I mentioned, you can find various ways to dispose of medication online. One way to dispose of medication is to pour the medication into a sealable plastic bag and add water if you're dissolving pills or capsules. Then add something like kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds, dirt or anything that's non-food and mix it with the medication. This is making it where nothing is going to want to eat it. Seal the bag and put it in the trash. You should always remove and destroy all identifying personal information from containers before you recycle or throw them away.

If you are disposing of the medication, then document exactly how you did this. You should only dispose of the medication if you are not returning the medication to the parents. It's recommended to return it to the parents, but if you are disposing of medication or if you're working with families on how they can dispose of medication that they have, this is how you can do that.

 

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Administration of Medication in ECE Settings, in partnership with Region 9 Head Start Association, by Charlotte Hendricks, PhD.


charlotte hendricks

Charlotte Hendricks, PhD

Dr. Charlotte Hendricks has promoted health education for young children, families, and teachers for over 30 years and pioneered curriculum development and evaluation for preschool health education. Nationally recognized as a leader in her field, her career has spanned public health, higher education, Head Start, and research. She often presents to early childhood programs and at state and national conferences, delivering high energy presentations to illustrate practical and cost-effective approaches to best practice, national standards, and issues facing today’s early childhood staff and families.

Charlotte served as Editor for Healthy CHILDCare magazine for 16 years and has published extensively, including HIP on Health®: Health Information for Caregivers and Families and Growing, Growing Strong: A Whole Health Curriculum for Young Children. Her latest book, Redleaf Quick Guide to Disaster Planning and Preparedness in Early Childhood and Schoolage Care Settings, exemplifies her ability to present essential information in an easy-to-follow format.


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