DEA Drug Take-Back Day: How to Keep Your Pets Safe and Properly Dispose of Prescription Medications

October 19, 2017

a cat near prescription bottles

The veterinary staff at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) knows just how easy it is for pets to get into (and ingest) things they shouldn’t. In 2016, human prescription medications topped the list of pet toxins most commonly ingested by pets.

Many of the calls APCC receives about medication involve pets getting into old medications that are no longer being used—whether they be human or pet prescriptions. Prompt and proper disposal of expired or unwanted prescription medications is an important way to help keep pets safe, and APCC wants to be sure that you have all the facts on dealing with these potential health hazards. 

The number one way to dispose of expired or unwanted prescription medications is to take them into a drug take-back event.

Saturday, October 28, is the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. To find out if there’s a planned drug take-back program or event near you, you can visit the DEA’s website or call the DEA Office of Diversion Control Registration Call Center directly, at 1-800-882-9539, and ask if they are hosting an event in your area.  You can also contact your city or county government representatives for information.

If a take-back event is not happening in your area, the second best way to dispose of expired or unwanted prescription medications is by throwing them away in your household trash. However, there are key steps you want to make sure to take before throwing your medications in the trash:

  1. Take the medication out of the original containers and eliminate any identifying information on the label
  2. Mix the drug with an undesirable substance such as cat litter or used coffee grounds
  3. Place mixture in a sealable, disposable container or bag
  4. Place sealed container with mixture in the trash

Generally, flushing medications down the toilet is not advised. Flushing medications can potentially lead to the contamination of rivers, lakes and even community water supplies. Water treatment plants are not typically equipped to remove medicines from water.

However, the FDA does provide a list of the few medications that are recommended for disposal by flushing (in the event that a drug take-back program is not available).

As National Drug Take-Back Day gets closer, we hope that you will clear out your medicine cabinets and ensure that you don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to your pet and prescription drugs.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any poisonous substances or ingested anything harmful, contact your veterinarian or call Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 888-426-4435 immediately.