Don’t Flush Unused Medications

An image of prescription pills, for a post about safely disposing of unused medication.

Here’s How to Dispose of Them Safely

Do you have unused or unneeded medications in your home? If you’re thinking of flushing them down the toilet, STOP.

Flushing pharmaceuticals can lead to contamination of water supplies, because wastewater treatment plants were not designed to remove these compounds.

Throwing drugs in the trash or leaving them in the medicine chest, however, is also problematic, because it can lead to unintentional use, overdose or illegal abuse. Studies show most teens who misused prescription drugs got them from family, friends, or found them at home. More than 67,300 Americans died from drug-involved overdose in 2018

Thankfully, there are better options. In Lehigh County, there are 23 locations where you can safely drop off unused medications through The Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Take-Back Program. It was formed by the state’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. Each location has a secure, permanent prescription drug take-back box installed— you can view a map of them here.

If you’re outside the county, just go to the state’s Drug Take Back Locations page and search by zip code or county.

Here’s how to use the take-back boxes — and what they can be used for:


  • All pharmaceutical drugs to be disposed must be placed in a sealed container such as the original bottle or zip-lock bag
  • Liquid pharmaceuticals should remain in the original container
  • Personal information should be removed or marked out with a permanent marker


  • Prescription and over-the-counter solid medications
  • Tablets and capsules
  • Pet medicines 


  • Intravenous solutions
  •  Injectables, syringes, and needles (i.e. EpiPens)*; these need to be taken to a health care professional’s office or to a hospital for disposal
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Compressed cylinders or aerosols (e.g., asthma inhalers)
  • Iodine-containing medications
  • Thermometers
  •  Alcohol & illicit drugs (i.e. marijuana, heroin, LSD, etc.)

If you can’t find a take-back box near you, contact your local pharmacy — many pharmacies will accept unneeded medication, or direct you to a safe disposal option.