Pharmaceutical Drug Disposal

Store Safely...Dispose Wisely


  • Store your medicines safely away from children or others who could take your medicine without your permission. This may mean locking up your medicines.
  • Practice safe disposal by taking unused or expired medicines to a disposal location (see list to the right).


  • Flush pills or liquid medication down the toilet or drain. Flushing pollutes drinking water and potentially harms aquatic life.

Studies have detected medicines in our water supplies.

If you have no other choice, you can throw most medicines in household trash if you follow these steps:

  • Remove medicine from containers and destroy labels to help protect privacy. Recycle containers if possible or hide them in the trash.
  • Mix medicine with something that cannot be eaten, such as used cat litter or coffee grounds, to prevent accidental or intentional misuse of medicine by children or animals.
  • Wrap the mixture in another material, such as newsprint or a paper sac, or place medicine in seal-able containers (cans, plastic bags).
  • Throw in the trash on the day your garbage is collected.

Disposing of Sharps and Needles

  • Place syringes and other injectables in a rigid (empty laundry detergent) or metal container with a screw-on cap.
  • Place a label/warning on the container (Example: Syringes - Do Not Recycle).
  • Place sealed containers in the trash, not recycling.
  • Or purchase a sharps container at your pharmacy. Your pharmacy may sell pre-labeled, mail-back containers.

Disposing of Patches:

  • Only for used fentanyl or Duragesic pain patches: fold in half, sticky side together and flush down the toilet. These patches are dangerous if not flushed immediately after use.
  • Take unopened patches to the DEA National Take-Back Initiative or to a local drop off location.
  • Use the Colorado Medication Take-Back Project or DEA National Take-Back Initiative for proper disposal of other patches.

DEA & Law Enforcement Take-Back

  • Visit the DEA Website for the dates/locations of the DEA National Take-Back Initiative in the Spring and Fall of each year.
  • Visit the Take-Back list for law enforcement take-back locations.