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Recycle Indiana

Recycle Indiana > Unwanted Medicine Unwanted Medicine

What to do with Unwanted Medicine

IDEM in partnership with the Office of the Attorney General has developed a list of local unwanted medicine take back collection programs [XLS] throughout Indiana. Additionally, many pharmacies offer for sale postage-paid envelopes which are used to mail in non-controlled substances for disposal.

Many of Indiana's local household hazardous waste collection programs accept unwanted medicine. To find a household hazardous waste collection program for your county, look at the Solid Waste Management Districts map or contact IDEM's Office of Pollution Prevention and Technical Assistance, toll-free at (800) 988-7901, or directly at (317) 232-8172.

Remember, it is illegal to give controlled substances to anyone other than a police officer or a person who is under law enforcement supervision. All programs that accept controlled substances must be operated under the supervision of law enforcement.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration website has additional information about controlled substances. Drugs.com, among other websites, has a Pill Identifier web tool to use in looking up information about prescription medicines.

What if collections aren't available in your community?

If you must throw away unwanted or expired medicines, follow these instructions to protect your family and the environment:

  • Dissolve tablets or capsules in the original container with a small amount of water. For liquid medicine, add sawdust, kitty litter or flour to the original container.
  • Completely mark out all personal information from prescription bottles.
  • Put all lids back on the containers tightly and put them in a heavy-duty sealed bag to keep medications from leaking.
  • Put the sealed bag in your trash so that it is not visible.
Do Not:
  • Flush medicine down the sink or drain.
  • Give or sell medicine to family and friends.

More information about household needles or sharps collection programs and the safe management of sharps is available from the Recycle Indiana website.

What Other Ways Can I Reduce Unwanted Medicine in my Home?

  • Purchase only as much as you need. Ask your physician and/or pharmacist about trial quantities.
  • Centralize all medications in one location so you do not purchase products you already have.
  • Say "No" to samples if you are not going to use them.

Why Should I Dispose of Medicine Properly?

Unwanted and expired medicine may be a risk to human health and the environment if disposed of improperly.

Traditionally, Hoosiers were encouraged dispose of unwanted or expired medicine by flushing it down the toilet or pouring it down a drain. However, wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are not designed to deal with pharmaceutical waste. Many medicines pass through the systems and are released into streams, lakes, and groundwater.

How does medicine affect the environment?

Medicine in surface water may cause adverse effects in fish and other aquatic wildlife, as well as unintentional human exposure to chemicals in the medicine. Technological improvements are helping scientists detect trace amounts of medicine in surface water and study how it affects human and environmental health, but the research is just beginning.

U.S. Geological Survey research found that some aquatic organisms living in waters downstream from wastewater treatments plants are showing signs of developmental and reproductive problems. Researchers are working to determine whether these impacts are the effects of pharmaceuticals in the environment.

In the meantime, the best way to reduce the impact of pharmaceutical waste on the environment is to dispose of medicine properly. Find an Unwanted Medicines Take Back Collection Program [XLS] near you or read the Unwanted Medicines Fact Sheet (available on the IDEM Fact Sheets page) to properly dispose of medicine.

How is Indiana Addressing Medicine Disposal?

Indiana's pharmacists, educators, health care providers, and waste managers raised concerns about:

  • Medicine theft
  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Accidental poisoning
  • Identity theft
  • Clean water

In response to these concerns, IDEM developed the following information about unwanted medicine:

If you or your organization are planning an unwanted medicine collection event, contact IDEM via email at "recycle at idem.in.gov" or call us at (800) 988-7901, extension 3-6660 for assistance. The following resources are available to assist in planning medicine collection events or programs.

If your unwanted medicines collection event is not included in the Unwanted Medicines Collection Programs list, please email "recycle at idem.in.gov", or call (800) 988-7901, with program information so it can be included.

Attorney General Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force

On September 17, 2012, the Indiana Attorney General launched a Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force with five committees:

  • Take Back
  • Education
  • Enforcement
  • Treatment
  • INSPECT

This task force is composed of state legislators, law enforcement, health officials, pharmacy representatives, state and local agencies (including IDEM) and education providers. The task force is working to find solutions to the prescription drug abuse epidemic of Indiana. For more information go to the Indiana Attorney General Combating Drug Abuse website.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force teamed up to launch BitterPill.IN.gov. This website, armed with a toolkit of resources for Hoosiers, is part of a comprehensive statewide public awareness campaign targeting Indiana’s prescription drug abuse epidemic.

Yellow Jug Old Drug Program Expands to Indiana

Properly disposing of unwanted medicines protects our lakes and streams and prevents prescription drug abuse and accidental poisonings. In partnership with the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force and the Office of the Attorney General, IDEM invites Indiana pharmacies to help provide safe disposal options year round by joining the Great Lakes Clean Water Organization’s Yellow Jug Old Drugs Program. This program is for non-controlled substances only. The Bitter Pill webpage and the Recycle Indiana Unwanted Medicines webpage supply a list of locations where residents can take controlled substances.

Radio PSAs

Unwanted Medicines
  • "Cleaning Up" 60 Second Spot [MP3]
  • "Family Cat" 30 Second Spot [MP3]
  • "Honey?" 30 Second Spot [MP3]

For More Information