The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that some leftover medications be flushed, rather than disposed of using the methods on the front of this guide. These are powerful pain medications and a few other types of medications that can be especially harmful — even fatal — to children and pets. The best way to dispose of these is at a drug collection site. If one is not available, the FDA has decided that flushing these medications is safer because it can prevent them from being accidentally used by children, pets, or anyone else. If your prescription is for any of the medications listed below and a drug collection site is not available, pour the leftovers down the sink or flush them down the toilet:

  • Diazepam (Diastat/Diastat AcuDial) rectal gel
  • Fentanyl (Actiq) lozenges
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic) transdermal system (patches)
  • Fentanyl (Fentora) tablets
  • Fentanyl (Onsolis) soluble film
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) tablets or oral liquid
  • Meperidine (Demerol) tablets or oral solution 
  • Methadone HCl (Dolophine, Methadose) oral solution or tablets
  • Methylphenidate (Daytrana) patches
  • Morphine sulfate (Avinza, Kadian, Oramorph SR) extended release capsules
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan) tablets
  • Oxymorphone (Opana, Opana ER) tablets
  • Sodium oxybate (Xyrem) oral solution

 *Note: Generic names are first, followed by brand names in parentheses.

Common questions about medications and the environment

  • If the medications listed above are dangerous, why flush them? The disposal methods described in this handout are generally safe, but there is a small chance that children or pets could discover the medications. Flushing these medications will prevent that from happening.
  • How does medication enter our water system? Your body doesn’t process all of the medication you take, and the rest ends up in your urine. As a result, that medication can end up in the water system. While you cannot prevent this from happening, you can help limit the problem by disposing of your medications properly. 
  •  Does the water treatment plant remove all medication from our waste water? No. Water treatment plants can leave trace amounts of medication in the water. Humans are not harmed by this small amount, but the affect on fish and wildlife is not known.
  • What should I do with expired medications? Medications that are expired (past their “discard by” date) should not be used and may be treated like other leftover medications. Follow the instructions within this guide to properly dispose of expired medications.