The Savvy Patient - Store and Dispose of Drugs in a Safe Manner

Unused medications can be deadly if they fall into the wrong hands

In this week’s installment of The San Diego Union-Tribune’s “Savvy Patient” column, Scripps Health provides insight on proper storage and disposal of medication.


Knowing how to properly dispose and store prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can keep others safe. While drugs can be invaluable in treating and preventing illness, they must be taken and handled with care.


Take unwanted medications to secure drop boxes at Sheriff’s Department sites (check sdsheriff.net for locations), where medications will be disposed of according to state and federal laws.


Some things to know:


  • Proper disposal of medications safeguards drinking water and the environment. Medication should never be flushed down the toilet as this can cause drugs to enter the water supply, polluting human water supplies and causing danger to natural aquatic habitats.
  • Avoid transferring drugs into containers labeled for other medications. Someone may mistakenly take the medication.
  • Never share medications with friends or family, even if they have the same symptoms. Only a physician can diagnose and prescribe medications.
  • Finish any course of antibiotics prescribed by a physician, even if symptoms subside after a few days. Discontinuing the antibiotic too soon can lead to antibiotic resistance, which means an antibiotic may no longer be effective in treating an infection.
  • Take inventory of medicine cabinets at least once a year. Dispose of medications that lack clearly marked expiration dates or that no one recalls purchasing.


The San Diego Union-Tribune’s “Savvy Patient” column, "Store and dispose of drugs in a safe manner," is not available at this time.



Media Contact: Lisa Ohmstede

Phone: 858-626-7142

E-mail: ohmstede.lisa@scrippshealth.org