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Where can I dispose of expired prescription and over-the-counter medications?

Ken Little
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UPDATE: Here is new information from a story Lydia Coutre wrote in December 2014, added to a question originally answered in 2009:

New Hanover County now has two new permanent drop boxes where residents can safely dispose of expired, unwanted medications.

The drop boxes are at the sheriff’s office in the front desk lobby of the detention center at 3950 Juvenile Center Road, Castle Hayne [Map this], and in Room 201 of the Historic Courthouse, 24 N. Third St., Wilmington [Map this].

The goal is to keep drugs off the street, prevent overdoses and accidental poisonings and avoid environmental contamination, according to a county news release.

Non-narcotics, narcotics, over-the-counter medicines, herbals and veterinary medications can all be placed in the secure drop boxes. Items that shouldn’t be placed in the boxes include needles or sharps, and biohazard materials.

In 2012 and 2013 in North Carolina, six out of every 10 calls to the poison center involved pharmaceutical substances such as a pain reliever, antidepressant or cough and cold medicine. Eighty percent of these poisonings were unintentional and occurred at home.


“You can ask your pharmacist. That is actually the first and best thing you can do,” says Sally Slusher, spokeswoman for the N.C. Association of Pharmacists.

North Carolina currently does not have a statewide medication disposal program. The N.C. Association of Pharmacists makes the following recommendations about disposal of old prescription medicine:

  • Check before flushing: Flushing old medicine down the sink or toilet may seem easy and safe, but the medications can actually wind up in streams and lakes through the water system. The flushing method should only be used when instructed to do so. Check with a pharmacist to see if leftover medicine should be flushed. If not, take the following steps:
  • Crush and dissolve: To make sure the medicine does not get into the hands of children or the mouths of family pets, crush unused solid medicine like tablets and capsules and dilute liquid medicine like syrup and oral solution.
  • Mix, bag and seal: Mix the crushed or watered-down medicine with coffee grounds, cat litter, sawdust or other solid waste, then bag the mix in a plastic bag and seal the bag. The bag can then be placed in the trash.


Is it legal for a doctor to stop writing you prescriptions for pain medication if you use marijuana?

How many drug overdose deaths have occurred in New Hanover County in the past five years?

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One Response to “ Where can I dispose of expired prescription and over-the-counter medications?”

  1. On September 20, 2009 at 10:30 am Lisa wrote:

    Or you can contact your local Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and find out if they know any dates/locations.

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