Script Your Future: How to Dispose of Unused Medications at Home

The dispensing of prescription medications, especially controlled substances such as narcotics, is tightly regulated by pharmacies and other government agencies. With that being said, there is a lack of oversight on how to discard these medications properly if they go unused. A national survey of United States adults found that nearly half of all patients with pain medication had or expected to have “leftover” medication (1). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 68% of those who use pain medications non-medically got them from friends or family members (2). It is clear to see how keeping unused narcotics increases the chances of unwanted drug diversion.

Fortunately, there are several solutions to combat this problem. Many retail pharmacies now sell drug disposal systems commonly in the form of pouches or bottles. These systems are safe, effective, and convenient ways for patients to get rid of any unused or unwanted prescription medications without flushing them down the drain. Activated charcoal within the pouches or bottles renders the medications inactive when water is added to the container along with the medications. The containers should then be appropriately sealed, and can be thrown away with household trash. Another upside to these disposal systems is their usefulness for various drug formulations (tablets, capsules, liquids, and patches). Below are samples of at-home drug disposal systems that are easily used. Many drug manufacturers will donate these drug disposal systems at no cost, so ask your local pharmacy about them today!


Delterra Pouches


Element Drug Disposal System


Can dissolve 45 pills or 6 oz. liquid or 6 patches

Contributed by: Rebekah Dunham, Class of 2017


  1. Kennedy-Hendricks A, Gielen A, McDonald E, McGinty EE, Shields W, Barry CL. Medication Sharing, Storage, and Disposal Practices for Opioid Medications Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(7):1027-1029. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.2543
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville

Script Your Future – UCSOP Kicks Off 2017 Medication Adherence Challenge

Script Your Future

The 2017 Script Your Future (SYF) Campaign has officially begun, and as such, the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy is working tirelessly to educate the public about the importance of medication adherence. The main goal of SYF is to educate others about safe and proper medication use. This includes taking medications only as directed by a doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional. For persons with long-term health conditions, especially, adhering to their medications is critical and possibly life-saving. Research has shown that more than 1 in 3 medication-related hospitalizations happen because the person did not take their medicine as instructed. Furthermore, almost 125,000 people die each year due to medication non-adherence.

Unfortunately, medication adherence is something many people struggle with. Some patients either never fill their prescriptions, or they may never pick up their filled prescriptions from the pharmacy. Others bring their medication home, but they end up skipping doses or stop taking the medication all together. It is important for everyone to take their medications only as directed by a health care provider so they do not take too high or too low of a dose. Not taking medications as instructed, can be detrimental for your health. For example, if a person with COPD does not regularly use their maintenance inhaler, it can result in increased shortness of breath and significantly decrease their overall quality of life. Not taking medications as directed can lead to other health problems, especially if you already have asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

There are many reasons people lack proper medication adherence. Forgetfulness, adverse side effects, cost, and thinking the medication is not needed are all common reasons people do not take their medications properly. No matter the reason, however, by not taking medications as directed, it increases the patients chances of experiencing worsening disease states and/or symptoms, and may even decrease their protection from future health complications. If you or a loved one have questions about your health conditions, how your medicine works, why you need to take your medicine, side effects or other concerns– talk to your doctor, pharmacist, nurse or other health care professional. The members of your healthcare team will help you understand your disease states and what steps you can take in managing those conditions. The best, first step you can take, however, is to take your medications as directed!