Safe Disposal of Medicines and ‘Sharps’

Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know

Medicines play an important role in treating certain conditions and diseases, but they must be taken with care. Unused portions of these medicines must be disposed of properly to avoid harm. The resources listed below provide important information about safe disposal of medicines.

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Where and How to Dispose of Unused Medicines

You can dispose of your expired, unwanted, or unused medicines through a drug take back program — or you can do it at home. 

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DEA National Prescription Take Back Day

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.

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Safe Disposal of Needles, Syringes, and Other 'Sharps'

Sharps is a medical term for devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. They may be used at home, at work, and while traveling to manage the medical conditions of people or their pets, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, and psoriasis.

Examples of sharps include:

  • Needles – hollow needles used to inject drugs (medication) under the skin
  • Syringes – devices used to inject medication into or withdraw fluid from the body
  • Lancets, also called “fingerstick” devices – instruments with a short, two-edged blade used to get drops of blood for testing. Lancets are commonly used in the treatment of diabetes.
  • Auto Injectors, including epinephrine and insulin pens – syringes pre-filled with fluid medication designed to be self-injected into the body
  • Infusion sets – tubing systems with a needle used to deliver drugs to the body.
  • Connection needles/sets – needles that connect to a tube used to transfer fluids in and out of the body. This is generally used for patients on home hemodialysis.

How to Dispose of Sharps

Used sharps should be immediately placed in a sharps disposal container. FDA-cleared sharps containers are generally available through pharmacies, medical supply companies, health care providers and online. These containers are made of puncture-resistant plastic with leak-resistant sides and bottom. They also have a tight fitting, puncture-resistant lid.

If an FDA-cleared container is not available a heavy-duty plastic household container, such as a laundry detergent container can be used as an alternative.

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