Information About Safe Disposal of Opioids

When taking opioid medicines, it is important to store your medicine away from children and in a safe place to prevent stealing. When your opioid medicine is no longer needed or is expired, any unwanted or unused medicine should be removed from your home as quickly as possible to help reduce the chance that others may accidentally take or intentionally misuse the medicine.

Accidental exposure to these medicines could be harmful or sometimes deadly, even with just one dose, if they are used by someone other than the person the medicine was prescribed for. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that opioid medicines be promptly disposed of by flushing down the toilet when no longer needed, unless a medicine take-back program option is immediately available. To help prevent accidental exposure to the medicines, flushing these medicines down the toilet removes this risk from the home.

Some opioid medicines come with additional disposal instructions for used and unused medicine. For example, opioids that are available as transdermal or patches may also include the option to place the used patch in what is called a patch-disposal unit before it is placed in the garbage. Patches should only be placed in the garbage when a patch-disposal unit is available. Otherwise, the patch should be folded in half and flushed immediately. 

Also, some pharmacies may offer alternative disposal methods or products that are not specifically recommended or tested by the FDA, DEA, or the company that makes your opioid medicine. It is possible that these alternative disposal methods may not be effective or work as intended for safe disposal of all opioid formulations.

It is important to read the Medication Guide that you receive along with your prescription opioid and review the disposal instructions. If you did not receive information containing disposal instructions along with your prescription, you should dispose of any used or unneeded opioid medicine by flushing it down the toilet.

Additional information on medication disposal is available on the FDA website.

Also visit the DEA’s website for more information about drug disposal, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events and to locate a DEA-authorized collector in your area.

For more information, visit Ask Purdue Medical.