What should I do with medication I no longer use? Our Pharmacist gives medication disposal tips…

By Aimee Turcotte, PharmD, Pharmacy Manager at Tri-County Health Care:


If you are like a lot of folks, you probably have a lot of medications in your medicine cabinets, kitchen cupboards or those random ‘just in case places’ like old purses, suitcases, winter jacket pockets or that glove box in your car. Maybe a few years ago you sprained your ankle or have occasional migraines that cause you pain and require something a bit stronger then Ibuprofen.

Now, as you’re doing your spring cleaning, you are wondering… “Should I get rid of these? I don’t need them anymore,” or “Why do I have so many antibiotic pills leftover?”

Or you may be thinking, I should get rid of these so my kids, teenagers or grandkids don’t get a hold of them or possibly that they don’t get into the hands of the wrong people.

Also, you don’t want your furry four-legged children, Fifi or Lucky, to be tempted by your medications or the plastic bottles theytoilet are stored in. Prior to coming to TCHC, I spent nine years as the Director of Pharmacy at the U of MN Veterinary Medical Center and saw way too many pets in our ICU that got into or were unintentionally given “people” medication that were very harmful and often poisonous to them. As a veterinary pharmacist for nine years, it is a proven fact that Labrador retrievers (no matter what the color, but yellow seems to be the highest) will eat just about anything, including very distasteful medication, plastic prescription vial, cap and all. So this potential danger to our pets is yet another reason to keep medications up and out of reach and if not being used removed from the household completely.

Besides, after so many years most drugs lose a lot of their potency, especially if they are stored in places where they shouldn’t
be, like bathrooms and cars, where the temperatures or humidity are extreme.

Here’s some helpful hints on what you should and shouldn’t do with human or pet medications that are no longer needed.

  • DO NOT take prescription medications that were not written for you. It could cause serious harm. It’s also against the law.
  • DO NOT flush medications (prescription OR over-the-counter drugs) down the toilet or drain, unless a health care professional has instructed you to do so.

So you might be thinking, well then, what should I do with them?

safe_med_disposalThe best way to get rid of these medications, including expired medications, prescriptions, vitamins or supplements, over-the-counter medications or narcotics, is to deliver them straight to a Medication Drop Box site. This is a free service. Most counties, including the three counties served by TCHC, now have these Medication Drop box sites. Some counties, have multiple drop box sites and also offer “Prescription Drug Take Back Days.”

If you cannot physically get to a Medication Drop Box site, the next best thing is to remove the medication from the original container and mix it with an undesirable substance, like used coffee grounds or cat litter. If you do not have anything like that, you can try to dissolve the medication in a small amount of liquid and then put it in a sealable container (empty margarine tub, Ziploc baggie, sour cream container) and then place the container in your trash.  Remember, it’s best to try to remove or conceal your personal information on your prescription vial, including your prescription number. Even though a pharmacy can dispense drugs, by federal law it CANNOT take any medications back for disposal.

Here is the list of area Medication Drop Box Sites:

Wadena County


Ottertail County


Todd County:


Aimee with her children

Aimee with her children

About Aimee: She is the Pharmacy Manager of Tri-County Health Care and has been a proud member of the TCHC family for almost six years. She is a proud alumnus of the University Of Minnesota College Of Pharmacy in Minneapolis and graduated with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.  Prior to coming to TCHC, she was the Director of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Medical Center for nine years and spent her days treating creatures of all sizes, from teacup poodles to horses, as well as teaching veterinary students, interns and residents about pharmacy laws, medications, etc. Aimee and the TCHC pharmacy team are strong patient safety advocates and strive to use their drug knowledge, expertise and skills a part of the health care team to ensure medications are used safely and effectively.

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