Disposal of Unused Medicine FAQs

Why do the medications on the list have flushing directions for disposal?

The medicines on this list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing are safe and effective when used as prescribed, but they could be especially harmful to a child, pet, or anyone else if taken accidentally. Some of the possible harmful effects include breathing difficulties or heart problems, possibly leading to death. For these reasons, FDA advises that flushing these medicines down the sink or toilet is currently the best way to immediately and permanently remove the risk of harm from the home. FDA continues to work with and encourage the manufacturers of these medicines to develop alternative, safe disposal systems.

How should you dispose of medicines not found on the list?

Do not flush all medicines down the toilet. The FDA recommends that most medicines be disposed of in the household trash after mixing them with some unpalatable substance (e.g., coffee grounds) and sealing them in a container. Unused portions of medicines must be disposed of properly to avoid harm. Drug take-back programs for disposal can be another good way to remove unwanted or expired medicines from the home and reduce the chance that someone may accidentally take the medicine. Contact your city or county government's household trash and recycling service to see if there is a take-back program in your community and if there are any rules about which medicines can be taken back. You can also talk to your pharmacist to see if he or she knows of other medicine disposal programs in your area.

Does flushing the medicines on the list down the toilet or sink drain pose a risk to human health and the environment?

We are aware of recent reports that have noted trace amounts of medicines in the water system. The majority of medicines found in the water system are a result of the body’s natural routes of drug elimination (in urine or feces). Scientists, to date, have found no evidence of harmful effects to human health from medicines in the environment. Disposal of these select, few medicines by flushing contributes only a small fraction of the total amount medicine found in the water. FDA believes that any potential risk to people and the environment from flushing this small, select list of medicines is outweighed by the real possibility of life-threatening risks from accidental ingestion of these medicines.

Medicines Recommended for Disposal by Flushing

This list from FDA tells you what expired, unwanted, or unused medicines you should flush down the sink or toilet to help prevent danger to people and pets in the home. Flushing these medicines will get rid of them right away and help keep your family and pets safe.FDA continually evaluates medicines for safety risks and will update the list as needed.


Medicine Active Ingredient
Abstral, tablets (sublingual) Fentanyl
Actiq, oral transmucosal lozenge * Fentanyl Citrate
Avinza, capsules (extended release) Morphine Sulfate
Daytrana, transdermal patch system Methylphenidate 
Demerol, tablets * Meperidine Hydrochloride
Demerol, oral solution * Meperidine Hydrochloride
Diastat/Diastat AcuDial, rectal gel Diazepam
Dilaudid, tablets * Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Dilaudid, oral liquid * Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Dolophine Hydrochloride, tablets * Methadone Hydrochloride
Duragesic, patch (extended release) * Fentanyl
Embeda, capsules (extended release) Morphine Sulfate; Naltrexone Hydrochloride
Exalgo, tablets (extended release) Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Fentora, tablets (buccal) Fentanyl Citrate
Kadian, capsules (extended release) Morphine Sulfate 
Methadone Hydrochloride, oral solution * Methadone Hydrochloride 
Methadose, tablets * Methadone Hydrochloride 
Morphine Sulfate, tablets (immediate release) * Morphine Sulfate 
Morphine Sulfate, oral solution * Morphine Sulfate 
MS Contin, tablets (extended release) * Morphine Sulfate 
Nucynta ER, tablets (extended release) Tapentadol
Onsolis, soluble film (buccal) Fentanyl Citrate
Opana, tablets (immediate release) Oxymorphone Hydrochloride
Opana ER, tablets (extended release) Oxymorphone Hydrochloride
Oxecta, tablets (immediate release) Oxycodone Hydrochloride 
Oxycodone Hydrochloride, capsules Oxycodone Hydrochloride 
Oxycodone Hydrochloride, oral solution Oxycodone Hydrochloride 
Oxycontin, tablets (extended release) * Oxycodone Hydrochloride 
Percocet, tablets * Acetaminophen; Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Percodan, tablets * Aspirin; Oxycodone Hydrochloride 
Xyrem, oral solution Sodium Oxybate 

*These medicines have generic versions available or are only available in generic formulations.