Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare supports disposing of unused medicines in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. We can’t take back leftover drugs, but we offer information about how to dispose of leftover medicines as safely as possible.

It is important to NOT keep extra medication after you are done using them, especially opioids and controlled substances such as oxycodone or diazepam. It is recommended you dispose of unused opioids if not used for two weeks following an acute illness or surgery. 

Drug Collection Programs

Many counties and local law enforcement agencies offer drop boxes to help residents properly and safely dispose of unwanted, unused and expired medications. This DEA website can help find a registered take back site; simply enter your zip code to find a Controlled Substance Public Disposal Location near you.

Contact your local law enforcement office to find out more about the local drug drop-off programs offered in your area. Many agencies and counties offer year-round drug collection programs or participate in national medicine take-back days. 

If you live in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, visit www.rethinkrecycling.com. The website, administered by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, explains how to appropriately dispose of unused medicines and other hazardous materials. The website lists locations of drug drop-off locations in the metropolitan area.

For more information on disposal of unused medication, visit the FDA's information site.

No Drug Drop-Offs in Your Area?

We strongly encourage you to use drug drop-off programs. However, if none are available or accessible to you, the FDA recommends the following steps to safely dispose of most unused medicines:

  1. Mix medicines (but do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance, such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
  2. Place the mixture in a container, such as a sealed plastic bag.
  3. Throw the container in your household trash.
    1. Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.
  4. There is a small number of medicines that might be especially harmful to others if not disposed of properly. The FDA instructs that these medications be flushed down the sink or toilet to help prevent danger to people and pets in the home. THese medicines are mostly opiods and controlled substances such as oxycodone and fentanyl patches. To learn more about medicines recommended for disposal by flushing, view the FDA's list of such medications.  

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team.