Substance Abuse Treatment
Check your medicine cabinet for unused or old prescriptions
By BrightView
Published: October 19, 2022
Updated: November 8, 2022

How to Keep Your Home’s Medicine Cabinet Safe from Harmful Leftover Meds and Old Prescriptions

While most adults in the United States have a prescription drug in their home, at least half of this medication is not taken as prescribed. Opioids prescribed for pain management offer a clear example — 70% of this highly addictive pain reliever goes unused. And two-thirds of teens misusing pain relievers get them from the medicine cabinets of family and friends.

These statistics are a powerful reminder that using prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons poses health and safety risks, including developing a substance use disorder.

Luckily the safe storage and disposal of unused, old, or expired prescription drugs prevents misuse. So here are three drug disposal tips to help keep your medicine cabinet safe.

“66% of teens misusing pain relievers get them from the medicine cabinets of family and friends.”



The most misused prescription drugs include anti-anxiety medications, opioid painkillers, stimulants, and sedatives. Scan your shelves thoroughly for medication you aren’t taking currently, you no longer need, or that has expired. Check all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and even diet supplements. Adding a reminder to your phone or calendar makes it easy to make this review a regular task.


Depending on the drug and the situation, you have multiple safe and anonymous disposal options.

  • Drop Them Off at a Drug Take Back Site: The best disposal option for any of these medications is to drop them off at a drug take back site. Each site is registered with the DEA and authorized to gather and dispose of any medications you have — even if they contain controlled substances. In addition to National Take Back Day, permanent sites are operating year-round. Click here to find a site near you.
  • Flush the Most Misused Meds: If a take back site is not an option, you should flush certain medications down the toilet. These are the most misused drugs — opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, stimulants, and sedatives. They are highly addictive and, taken inappropriately or accidentally, can result in an overdose. Click here to see if your medication is on the list.
  • Put Them in a Pouch for Trash Disposal: If a take back site is not an option, any drugs not on the flush list can be destroyed. The FDA has a step-by-step guide and there are free pouches you can request. Both make it simple to destroy unwanted medications safely.


If you are prescribed opioids for pain relief, the CDC recommends talking with your doctor or advanced provider to help prevent opioid addiction and overdose. Be sure to discuss how to dispose of any unused medication.

This Simple Task Saves Lives

In 2021, 294 people died every day in the United States from drug poisoning and overdose. Unused prescriptions contribute to this national health crisis. But by using the tips above, they don’t have to.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we can help. Contact us today at (833) 510-4357 to learn more about our addiction treatment services, or visit us online to learn more.



Photo by freestocks on Unsplash