Here’s how to safely dispose of leftover medication.

When cleaning out your medicine cabinet, make sure you safely dispose of medications. Unneeded drugs around the house can be a safety hazard.

“Child-resistant packaging doesn’t mean child-proof, and kids can still get into medications,” says Lacey Rodgers, Pharm-D, MHA, BCSPC, diversion officer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Young children might think drugs are candy, and older kids may abuse some types of prescription drugs.”

To prevent harmful use or abuse of medication, dispose of it in a safe, environmentally friendly way.

Drug Disposal Dos and Don’ts

Don’t throw drugs in the trash.
“There are reasons we discourage throwing drugs in the trash,” Rodgers says. “People can go through your trash and find them, or they can get your prescription information. Throwing medications in the trash also makes it easier for them to enter our water supply.”

Don’t flush drugs down the drain.
This also puts the drugs back into the water supply.

“There are exceptions to this rule,” Rodgers says. “If you have any narcotic painkillers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing them down the toilet, if there is no take-back option available, so they aren’t accessible.”

Do take advantage of drug take-back programs.
“That’s the best option,” Rodgers says. “Most police departments have drug take-back programs, and some pharmacies have them, as well.”

Ask your pharmacist about local take-back programs near you.