Prescription Drugs and Needles..How to Dispose of the Problem

Posted on April 5, 2011


Save the Date: 6/11 & 6/24 are Safe Prescription Disposal Days in Boston

Click here for more information

This year two elementary school children in Lynn, MA found a hypodermic needle lying on the street on their way to school. Both were pricked as they pretended to give one another flu shots. Thankfully, medical attention was given right away and both children were not hurt. Read the full story here.

However, an incident like this highlights the importance of properly disposing prescription drugs and needles. If left around, these medications can cause accidental poisoning or overdosing. Follow these tips below when cleaning out your medicine cabinet to avoid the risk of accidental injuries.

How to Dispose of Prescription Medicine (FDA)

  • Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so. For information on drugs that should be flushed visit the FDA’s website.
  • To dispose of prescription drugs not labeled to be flushed, you may be able to take advantage of community drug take-back programs or other programs, such as household hazardous waste collection events, that collect drugs at a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service and ask if a drug take-back program is available in your community.
  • If a drug take-back or collection program is not available:
    • Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.
    • Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
    • Put this mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
    • Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
    • Place the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers, in the trash.

How to dispose of syringes and needles

  • Used syringes and other sharps should always be placed in a sharps container and disposed of safely—either at a drop-off site or in a mailback program. IV drug users can also enroll in a Needle Exchange Program for needle exchange and other harm reduction services.
  • Do not clip, bend, or recap needles and always keep sharps and containers away from children and pets.
  • Residents should not throw used syringes in the garbage or recycling bins, flush them down the toilet, or drop them into storm drains.

If you have any more questions or would like to request more information, call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050.