Prescriptions are only valid temporarily. Once your prescription is no longer active, it is illegal for you to retain any unused portion of the medication. If you have a prescription medication that you no longer need, you have a responsibility to dispose of it properly.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, you can dispose of most medications in your household trash after a little preparation. However, some drugs pose such a great risk of harm to others that the only way to dispose of them is to flush them down the toilet or sink immediately.
Does flushing medications harm the water supply?
Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA have studied the effects of flushing medications on the environment. They have concluded that the risk is negligible. In many cases, the body does not fully metabolize the medication in the first place, and the residues pass through the body into the environment through wastewater treatment. This is a more significant source of drug residues in the water supply than flushing.
Which drugs can you flush?
Prescription medication packaging should provide instructions for disposal. This indicates whether flushing is necessary or it is possible to dispose of the drug in the trash. You should always follow the instructions given and never flush a medication unless the instructions specifically say so. The FDA also maintains a list of medications recommended for flushing which you can access online.
Are there alternatives to flushing?
There may be drug take-back programs in your community administered by pharmacies or law enforcement. These are acceptable disposal methods if you do not feel comfortable flushing your medications.