Medication Disposal

Medications play an important role in treating patient conditions and diseases; however, when they are no longer needed or they expire, it's important to dispose of them properly to avoid potential harm to others. Unused or expired medications left in the household could get into the wrong hands and have, unfortunately, become the target for misuse and theft. MPA holds an annual medication disposal event in September to bring awareness to this issue and provide an option for the public to safely dispose of medications. In addition, there are many other options available for safely and responsibly disposing of medications, some of which are detailed below.

Medication Disposal Event @ the Capitol
Michigan Pharmacists Association (MPA) hosts a Medication Disposal Event @ the Capitol each year on the south Capitol lawn in Lansing. The 2019 event will be held Tuesday, Sept. 17, from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. The Medication Disposal Event @ the Capitol allows the general public to safely and responsibly dispose of medications, including controlled substance medications/narcotics. Those dropping by will learn about properly disposing unused, unwanted or expired medications and the valuable role pharmacists play in patient safety.

If you are unable to make it to the event in September, please feel free to utilize the information below for a home disposal recipe. We encourage all individuals to find a medication disposal event near them, but when that is not possible, follow these directions:

General Event Information

Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019

Medications can be dropped off from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. A press conference is typically held at 11 a.m.

Michigan State Capitol, south lawn, Lansing, Mich.  Click here to get directions to the Capitol building.

Drop-off Instructions
Keep pharmaceuticals in their original container since the labels may contain safety information. In addition, the container is chemically compatible, and caps are typically water tight and child proof. Scratch out, cover with tape or use permanent marker to make personal information unreadable. Medications can be dropped off at the tent on the south Capitol lawn or there will be a drop-off tent located at Capitol Avenue and Michigan Avenue for your convenience.

Acceptable Items:

  • Controlled substance medications/narcotics
  • Eye drops
  • Inhalers
  • Insulin
  • Medicated ointments/lotions
  • Medication samples
  • Medications from individuals/households
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Pet medications
  • Prescription medications
  • Vitamins/supplements

Items Not Accepted:

  • Hazardous pharmaceuticals
  • Hazardous materials
  • Injectables
  • Medical/infectious waste
  • Medications from hospitals/health facilities
  • Needles/syringes

For a list of sharps collection programs in Michigan, please visit the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

Additional Event Information
The Medication Disposal Event @ the Capitol is held in conjunction with MPA's annual Pharmacy Day at the Capitol, an event designed to educate legislators and their staffs on the vital role pharmacists play on the healthcare team. Volunteers pharmacists, student pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have one-on-one time during wellness demonstrations with Michigan's lawmakers to discuss important pharmacy issues and provide expertise in the following areas:

  • Blood glucose monitoring
  • Blood pressure monitoring
  • Collaborative practice
  • Compounding
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Healthy lifestyle practices
  • Immunizations
  • Pharmacist and pharmacy technician education and training
  • Point-of-care testing

Media Information

A press conference, typically held at 11 a.m., will highlight a topic identified each year.

In 2017, the following speakers highlighted the work Michigan's Prescription Drug and Abuse Commission has done to curb the opioid epidemic, actions that all healthcare providers, including pharmacists can take to combat the rising costs of the epidemic and how to educate the public and patients about properly disposing of medications to keep them off the streets. The press conference also highlighted the success of the State Standing Order for naloxone and the long-awaited improvements to the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS). The 2017 speakers included:

  • Shelley Edgerton, director, Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
  • Eden V. Wells, chief medical executive, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
  • Jim Lile, Pharm.D., president, Michigan Pharmacists Association
  • Larry Wagenknecht, pharmacist, chief executive officer, Michigan Pharmacists Association
  • Jack Schinderle, director of waste management and radiological protection division, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Promotional Materials

Resources for the 2019 event will be available at a later date. The post-event press release from 2018 is available online.

Event Contacts

For any questions or sponsorships contact: 

For any media questions: 

Medication Disposal Resources
Additional information regarding safe disposal of medications, including methods and disposal options, is provided below.

How do I dispose of unused medications?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy developed federal guidelines that are summarized here: 

  • Follow any specific disposal instructions on the prescription drug labeling or patient information that accompanies the medicine. Do not flush medicines down the sink or toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.
  • Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government's household trash and recycling service (see blue pages in phone book) to see if a take-back program is available in your community. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, working with state and local law enforcement agencies, periodically sponsors National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days.
  • If no disposal instructions are given on the prescription drug labeling and no take-back program is available in your area, throw the drugs in the household trash following these steps. 1. Remove them from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter (this makes the drug less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs). 2. Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.

Ilisa Bernstein, Pharm.D., J.D., FDA's Deputy Director of the Office of Compliance, offers some additional tips: 

  • Before throwing out a medicine container, scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.
  • Do not give your medicine to friends. Doctors prescribe medicines based on a person's specific symptoms and medical history. A medicine that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.
  • When in doubt about proper disposal, talk to your pharmacist.

Bernstein says the same disposal methods for prescription drugs could apply to over-the-counter drugs as well.

The Product Stewardship Institute Inc. has released a How-to Guide for Drug Take Back: Managing a Pharmacy-Based Collection Program for Leftover Household Pharmaceuticals. Find the Guide here

  • This guide offers best practices for running a drug take-back program, regulatory instructions for controlled substances, collection systems, cost and funding information as well as strategies from promotion. 
  • This guide is designed to help pharmacists and pharmacy managers, local and government officials and leaders, healthcare providers, drug abuse and prevention programs, waste managers, environmental advocates and those in rural communities. 

Why the Precautions?
Prescription drugs such as powerful narcotic pain relievers and other controlled substances carry instructions for flushing to reduce the danger of unintentional use or overdose and illegal abuse.

For example, the fentanyl patch, an adhesive patch that delivers a potent pain medicine through the skin, comes with instructions to flush used or leftover patches. Too much fentanyl can cause severe breathing problems and lead to death in babies, children, pets, and even adults, especially those who have not been prescribed the medicine.

"Even after a patch is used, a lot of the medicine remains in the patch," says Jim Hunter, R.Ph., M.P.H., a pharmacist reviewer on FDA's Controlled Substance Staff, "so you wouldn't want to throw something in the trash that contains a powerful and potentially dangerous narcotic that could harm others."

Environmental Concerns
Some people are questioning the practice of flushing certain medicines because of concerns about trace levels of drug residues found in surface water, such as rivers and lakes, and in some community drinking water supplies. "The main way drug residues enter water systems is by people taking medicines and then naturally passing them through their bodies," says Raanan Bloom, Ph.D., an environmental assessment expert in FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Bloom goes on to say "many drugs are not completely absorbed or metabolized by the body and can enter the environment after passing through waste water treatment plants."

With this increasing skepticism, federal agencies have embarked to collaboratively review the matter. They’re researching the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the environment and any effects related to their occurrence. In 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA/OW), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA/ARS), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS/FDA) and the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI/USGS), established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to enhance the coordination and collaboration among the agencies. This has resulted in more recent EPA and USGS findings suggesting that certain drugs may cause ecological harm. Of particular interest because are antibiotics and medications that interfere with the functioning and development of hormones or endocrine disruptors and their impacts on fish and amphibians.

As states await findings from the federal research, residents are encourage to take unused medications to collection sites for incineration, which destroys chemicals, preventing the discharge of additional pharmaceuticals to our water. For a complete list of medications that the FDA recommends be flushed for disposal due the risks associated with unintentional poisoning, please see the FDA's webpage on Disposal of Unused Medicines.

Disposal of Inhaler Products
Another environmental concern lies with inhalers used by people who have asthma or other breathing problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Traditionally, many inhalers have contained chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a propellant that damages the protective ozone layer. However, CFCs have been phased out of inhalers and are being replaced with more environmentally friendly inhalers by the end of 2013.

Read handling instructions on the labeling of inhalers and aerosol products because they could be dangerous if punctured or thrown into a fire or incinerator. To ensure safe disposal that complies with local regulations and laws, contact your local trash and recycling facility.

This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, How to Dispose of Unused Medications,, updated June 4, 2015; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

What disposal programs or events are available in Michigan?

To find locations throughout the state where you can safely dispose of your unused, unwanted or expired medications, visit the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Household Drug Take Back Map here. Type in your address and find the locations closest to you!

Visit the links below for additional take back programs throughout the state. 

In addition to the programs above, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has developed a website to increase public awareness of the risks and potential harm associated with misuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications, and to provide everyday steps individuals can take to address the issue in their families and communities. Do Your Part: Be the Solution is a multifaceted approach to addressing prescription drug misuse and abuse across Michigan. Access the website online at