Massachusetts Medical Society: Learn about Safe Storage and Disposal

Learn about Safe Storage and Disposal

Medication Storage and Medication Disposal from the MMS

Many people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family. You can play an important role in keeping addictive and or potentially harmful medicines from falling into the wrong hands.  Never share prescription medication. Make sure other people don’t have access to your medicine by following these steps.

Step 1: Monitor

  • Start by taking note of how many pills are in each of your prescription bottles or pill packets.
  • Keep track of your refills. This goes for your own medicine, as well as for other members of the household. If you find you need to refill your medicine more often than expected, that could indicate a problem.
  • If your teen has been prescribed a medication, be sure you control the medicine, monitor dosages and refills. You need to be especially vigilant with medicines like opioids that are known to be addictive, potentially harmful or commonly misused by teens.
  • Make sure your friends and relatives — especially grandparents — are also aware of the risks. Encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicines.
  • If there are other households your teen has access to, talk to those families as well about the importance of monitoring and safeguarding their medications

Step 2: Secure

  • Approach securing your prescriptions the same way you would other valuables in your home, like jewelry or cash. There’s no shame in helping protect those items and the same holds true for your medicine.
  • Take prescription medicine out of the medicine cabinet and secure them in a place only you know about.
  • If possible, keep all medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter, in a safe place, such as a locked cabinet.
  • Tell relatives, especially grandparents, to lock their medicine or keep them in a safe place.
  • Talk to the parents of your teenager’s friends. Encourage them to secure their prescriptions as well.

Step 3: Dispose

  • Take an inventory of all of the medicine in your home. Discard expired or unused medicine – both prescription and over the counter medicines. Leftover pills are an attractive target for people who misuse prescription drugs.

  • A drug that worked for you could be harmful to someone else. Doctors prescribe drugs based on a person’s specific symptoms and medical history. 
  • A medicine that worked for you in the past may not work for you in the future, even if you have similar symptoms. It could even be harmful.

  • Some people may try to retrieve discarded prescription medicine from the trash. To help prevent this from happening, mix the medicine with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. Put the mixture into an empty can or bag and discard.
  • Unless the directions on the packaging say otherwise, do not flush medicine down the drain or toilet.
  • Remove any personal, identifiable information from prescription bottles or pill packages before you throw them away. This protects your family’s privacy, and prevents unauthorized refills.


Disposal Resources

Some communities have drop boxes where you can bring unused or expired medicines. Many of them are at local police stations.

Safe Storage and Disposal of Medicines Instructions


Sharps Disposal

How to Safely Dispose of Sharps  

Where to Dispose of Sharps

Boston Health Commission: Needle and Syringe Safe Disposal Fact Sheet

Proper Use, Care and Disposal of Needles and Syringes  


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