Do you have unused or expired over-the-counter or prescription medicine in your cabinet? Dispose of them properly to help prevent misuse and accidental poisonings and to protect the environment. Wastewater Treatment Plants and Onsite Sewage Disposal Systems are not designed to remove these chemicals. As a result these medications can end up in the environment and eventually in our drinking water.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as local organizations, host "take-back" days, when residents can bring medicines to a designated site for proper disposal. Learn more about the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Initiative.
You also can pick up a drug disposal kit at Fairfax County Health Department offices (when supplies are available) and other drug disposal kit distribution locations. Before visiting a Health Department office, please call to confirm that kits are available.
General Home Medical Disposal Information
Don't Flush Unused Medicines
Why? Because they can end up in our rivers and streams. To help protect our environment, throw unused, unwanted or expired over-the-counter and prescription medicines in the trash. Don’t flush medicines — except when specifically instructed by the label.
Check the pill bottle for any instructions on proper disposal. If none are present, follow these steps:
- Remove medicine from original containers. Do not crush tablets or capsules.
- Mix medicine with undesirable substance like kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
- Place mixture in a tightly sealable bag or container and throw away in trash.
- Black out all personal information on the prescription label so that it is unreadable.
Disposal of Needles and Syringes
The medicine drop-off locations and drug disposal pouches cannot be used for needles and syringes. Learn how to safely dispose of needles, syringes and other medical waste from your home. (Please note: Commercial facilities, such as nursing homes, must use a licensed disposal company to get rid of their waste.)
National Drug Disposal Initiative
Learn about the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Take-Back Initiative, which holds National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days. On these days, residents can safely dispose of unwanted, unused prescription drugs at a nearby drop-off location.
- Safely Dispose of Unused Medications (Available in Spanish: Deseche de manera segura los medicamentos no utilizados)
- 4 Ways to Safely Dispose of Unused Medications
- Prescription Drug Education: KNOW the RxSK - Use with Caution
- Protect Your Pipes: Expired Medications (Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments)
- Get help for opioid addiction