Substance Use Disorder and Medication Safety

image of over the counter medications

Since 2000, there have been over 700,000 deaths in the US due to drug overdose. The numbers continue to rise each day, and reports show that annual death rate has been increasing each year. Substance use disorder is a debilitating, life-threatening condition that requires both support and prevention. It is also important to dispose of unused prescription medications to prevent both the risk from unintentional drug consumption but also from medication overdosages. (*1,2 see references) Learn more about substance use disorder and safe drug disposal below!

Safe Drug Disposal

Where can I safely dispose of my unused medications?

  • Drug take-back boxes are located at pharmacies partnered with mutual drug, most large chain pharmacies, and police stations
  • To find where a take-back box is located near you, Google “drug disposal near me”
  • Before dropping off any of your unused medications, be sure to mark out any personal information
  • All take-back boxes are able to accept prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and liquid medication bottles

How do I dispose of medications at home?

  • Cross out any personal information listed on the medication bottles
  • Empty the medication into a sealable, disposable container
  • To the bag, add undesirable substances (cat litter, coffee grounds, etc.)
  • Discard the container in regular trash

What not to do

  • Throw away full medication bottle in regular trash
  • Flush medications down the toilet
  • Give medications to someone else
  • Keep unused medications in an unsafe place or past their expiration date
Download printable version of Disposal Handout (PDF)

Substance Use Disorder and Medication Disposal

Substance Abuse Disorder

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a lifelong illness that involves intoxication and withdrawal from a substance that causes euphoria. These substances typically involve alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs. This disease tends to affect a person’s ability to function day to day and can result in distorted thinking & behavior. A person can have intense cravings, changes in personality, and abnormal movements.

View detailed handout on SUD (PDF)

Additional Resources


  1. NCDAS. NCDAS: Substance Abuse and Addiction Statistics [2020]. NCDAS. Published 2019.
  2. Office of the Commissioner. How to Dispose of Unused Medicines. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published 2019.