4 Ways to Safely Dispose of Unused Medications

Opioid epidemic and drug abuse

Updated Oct. 22, 2019

In this age of opioid addiction, reduce the danger lurking in your medicine cabinet and safely dispose of unused medications in multiple ways. In addition, flushing medications can contaminate the water supply and unused medications thrown in the trash can be found by children and pets.


1. Use a Permanent Dropbox or Drug Take Back Day

All Fairfax County Police Stations
• Full details and locations 

CVS Pharmacies
• 3117 Lockheed Blvd, Alexandria, VA 22306
• 7205 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003
• 5652 Pickwick Rd, Centreville, VA 20120
• 13031 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy, Fairfax, VA 22033
• 6637 Arlington Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22042

Walgreens Pharmacies
• 6717 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22306
• 4300 Backlick Rd, Annandale, VA 22003
• 13926 Lee Hwy, Centreville, VA 20120
• 8414 Old Keene Mill Rd Unit A, Springfield, VA 22152

Spectrum Healthcare Resources
10580 Arrowhead Dr.
Fairfax, VA 22030

Kaiser Reston
1890 Metro Center Dr.
Reston, VA 20190

Inova Fair Oaks Hospital
3600 Joseph Siewick Dr.
Fairfax, VA 22033


2. Get a Deactivation Kit

Deactivation kits contain a substance that neutralizes medications. Fairfax County offers deactivation kits. To use:

  • Place unused medication in pouch. Each pouch can deactivate 45 pills or 6 oz. liquid or 6 patches.
  • Fill halfway with warm tap water and wait 30 seconds.
  • Seal, gently shake pouch and throw out in trash.

You 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.

3. Mix Medications with an Inedible Substance and Throw in the Trash

Check the pill bottle for any instructions on proper disposal. If none are present, follow these steps:

  • Remove medication from original containers. Do not crush tablets or capsules.
  • Mix medication with undesirable substance like kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
  • Place mixture in a sealable bag, or container and throw away in trash.
  • Black out all personal information on the prescription label so that it is unreadable.


4. Guidance for Sharps Disposal

Sharps are more commonly known as needles and syringes. Use the following steps for disposal of this home generated medical waste:

  • Use a RIGID CONTAINTER with a screw-on cap such as an empty laundry detergent or bleach bottle.
  • CLIP the needle and carefully place into labeled container or RECAP or RE-SHEATH the needle.
  • After container is full, SEAL with screw-on lid and WRAP tape over the lid.
  • DISPOSE of the sealed, full container with your household trash. DO NOT place in the recycle bin.

Other Resources
Read More on Proper Disposal of Medications Read More on Proper Disposal for Sharps



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