Disposing of Unused and Expired Medication Safely

Page updated on Sep 28, 2021 at 12:48 PM

Disposing of Unused and Expired Medication Safely

Why is it important to dispose of my medicine safely?

PillsMedicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse, and opioid prescription drugs are of particular concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 68% of the more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid. More than half of individuals who misused painkillers got them from a friend or relative. Additionally, nineteen percent of people who complete suicide use poison or medication. Safely disposing of unused and expired medications limits access, which helps fight the opioid epidemic.

Safely disposing of medications also helps increase public health. Many people often flush unused medications down the toilet or throw them away,both potential safety and health hazards. Drug take-back events and permanent drop boxes help support the goals of Eco-City Alexandria initiative to promote a place where people can live healthier and economically productive lives while reducing their impact on the environment. 

What are safe ways to dispose of medicines?


In Alexandria, you can dispose of unwanted or unused pills, liquids or other medication at one of three permanent medication drop boxes that provide year-round access to safe drug disposal for all Alexandria residents:

  • Neighborhood Pharmacy: 2204 Mt Vernon Ave.; open Mon - Fri: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Sat: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. and Sun: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

  • Inova Alexandria Hospital: Visitor's Center Lobby (near cashier's window), 4320 Seminary Road; open daily from 1 - 5 p.m. (for updated hours, visit inova.org/visit)

  • Alexandria Police Department Headquarters (just inside front entrance, ring bell for access): 3600 Wheeler Ave.; available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day 

Needles are not accepted at permanent medication drop box locations or during drug take back events.


Dispose of needles and syringes at a separate permanent drop box specifically for these items located inside the visitor's entrance at Inova Alexandria Hospital (4320 Seminary Road). The box is located near the permanent medication drop box next to the cahier's window; both drop boxes are available daily from 1-5 p.m. Please note that no needles are accepted during the take-back event or in the permanent medication drop boxes.


An additional three to four designated drop-off sites are made available during Prescription Drug Take Back Days, which are held twice a year in accordance with DEA national take back events.

The next Drug Take Back Day is October 23. A special collection will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the following drop-off sites staffed by the Alexandria Police Department and the Alexandria Sheriff's Office:

  • First Baptist Church (2932 King St.)

  • Alexandria Police Department (3600 Wheeler Ave.)

  • Fire Station 210 (5255 Eisenhower Ave.)

  • The Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray (2204 Mt. Vernon Ave.)

As required by state and local mandates, face coverings must be worn over the nose and mouth at all collection sites, and participants must remain at least 6 feet apart from others who do not live together.

Inova Alexandria Hospital (4320 Seminary Road) hosts a separate permanent drop box for needles and syringes accessible at the same location and hours as the hospital’s drop off box for medications. Please note that no needles are accepted during the take-back event or in the permanent medication drop boxes.

Outside of Alexandria, take advantage of your community’s local “take back” or mail back program or medication drop box at a police station, DEA-authorized collection site or pharmacy. Find a CVS Pharmacy Drop Box location near you. Find local pharmacies participating as drop-off points by zip code and locations to pick up free drug disposal kits.  


Never flush medication down the toilet, place it down the sink or dispose of it in a recycling bin; all of these approaches present potential safety and health hazards. Below are several options for disposing of unused and expired medications at home.

  • GET A DETERRA DRUG DISPOSAL POUCH MAILED TO YOU FOR FREE, OCTOBER 1-31. Through April 30, SAFE Project and the creators of the Deterra Drug Deactivation System are teaming up to bring at-home drug disposal to households across the US – for free. Click here to request a free Large Deterra Pouch to permanently and safely deactivate unused prescription or over-the-counter medications from the comfort of your home.
  • PICK UP A FREE DRUG DISPOSAL KITS. Virginians can pick up free drug disposals kits from a number of different locations as part of a campaign to reduce opioid addictions. There are several locations in Northern Virginia, including one in Alexandria at the Casey Health Center Pharmacy at 1220 North Howard Street.

If you need to dispose of medication at home and do not have a drug disposal bag:

  • Check medication bottles for any instructions on proper disposal.

  • If none are present, remove medication from its original container. Do not crush tablets or capsules.

  • Mix medication with an undesirable, inedible substance, such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds.

  • Place mixture in a sealable bag or container and throw away in a secured trash can.

  • Black out all personal information on the prescription label so it is unreadable.