AlexRenew Spotlight: Disposing of Drugs Properly

It’s fairly common for people not to finish a prescription or over-the-counter medication before it expires. You may not want it taking up space in your medicine cabinet where someone else could get into it. But getting rid of medication needs to be done properly to avoid any harm to others and the environment. So how do you get rid of unused medications?

Do not:

Flush them down the drain: Did you know that 80 percent of steams in the United States contain small amounts of human medicine, according to the U.S. Geological Survey? Medications dissolve in water, so most aren’t removed when wastewater is treated. So there is a good chance that they will end up in our local waterways, where they hurt aquatic animals.  

Throw them away: This keeps unused medication out of waterways but still poses a risk. Children, animals or those looking to abuse or sell the medication could retrieve it. Even when drugs aren’t taken from the trash, they can still end up in a landfill posing further environmental risk.


Drug Take Back Days: Many localities and organizations routinely host Drug Take Back events where you can drop off medications to be properly disposed of by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Local pharmacies: Most pharmacies won’t accept used medication, but there are a handful that will, including several in our region. You can find the closest location to your home here.

Drug disposal kits: As of November 10, Virginians can pick up free drug disposals kits from a number of different locations as part of a campaign to reduce opioid addictions. There are several locations in Northern Virginia, including one in Alexandria at the Casey Health Center Pharmacy at 1220 North Howard Street.

Thank you for helping protect public safety and our waterways by property disposing of medication.