ERMAHGERD!! Extrer drergs!! (What to do with all those random extra pills you no longer need!)

Did you know that keeping those extra pain pills (or those antibiotics you ended up being allergic to, or those birth control pills you switched off of months ago) lying around isn’t exactly ideal? There are actually quite a few safety hazards related to unwanted/extra pharmaceuticals: drug abuse, poisoning, overdose, environmental problems…Plus you will likely want to clear out your medicine cabinet sooner or later, and may wonder the best way to dispose of these meds.

Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some tips for safely ridding yourself of those pesky extra pills:

› DON’T FLUSH unless they are on this list from the FDA:

Swimming Fish





› Trash ’em? OK…BUT

  • First, make any leftover pills as unappealing as possible – shake them out of the bottle and mix them with gross trash like rotting food, old wet coffee grounds, and/or dirty kitty litter.
  • Be sure they are not in a trash receptacle that is accessible to kids, pets, or
    wildlife to avoid unintentional poisoning. Even something as simple as a few iron pills can be fatal to small children if accidentally ingested.
  • Protect yourself: remove any and all identifying info from the bottle – this includes anything with the patient’s name, phone number, address, etc. – prior to recycling it (if possible) or throwing it away.

Look who got stuck in the garbage can...

›  Best bet? Bring them to your pharmacy for proper disposal (Call them first – not all pharmacies have the ability to take back your old prescription/non-prescription meds).

  • Sometimes the pharmacy will want the label left on, and sometimes they will have you tear the label off before dropping them off.  To be on the safe side, leave all labels on until/unless you’re told otherwise.
  • You can bring them to Campus Health Pharmacy any time during business hours.
  • *Due to DEA regulations, Campus Health Pharmacy is unable to accept controlled substances – however, look for specific events throughout the year for take-back of these items!*

› Bestest bet? Don’t forget community “drug take back” events!

  • Keep an eye out for these events, which are often sponsored by the local police department, hospital, or pharmacy.  These offer great opportunities to gather up all those old tubes, bottles, vials, jars, and boxes of meds you don’t need any longer and get rid of them all for good.
  • See disposemymeds for an easy way to find these events in your neck of the woods.
  • Come find Campus Health during the move-out events around campus at the end of the spring semesters – we’ll be here to collect up any meds you find under that 3 month old pile of dirty laundry you finally had to pick up in order to pack.

Now, go forth and clean out that medicine cabinet! And stay tuned for more medication safety tips…

Oregon Drug Take Back Event - Sept. 2010

Medication Label Literacy

Reading the label on your medications – both prescription medications and those available without a prescription (over-the-counter or OTC medication) – is critical for your health.

What’s On the Label

How to Read Over the Counter Medicine Labels

All non-prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) medicine labels have detailed information about the proper use of the medication as well as pertinent precautions to help you choose which treatment is best for you.  It is important to remember that just because a medication is available “OTC” or is “all natural” does not necessarily mean it is safe and effective for every person who may use it, or that it does not have any potential interactions with other medications, foods, or health conditions.

Below is an example of what an OTC medicine label looks like as well as how to read it.

OTC Label

Image courtesy of

How to Read Prescription Medication Labels

All prescription medication labels include information about use and precautions. They are also dispensed with a sheet of printed material with more detailed information about the drug. We encourage you to ask your health care provider questions before getting a prescription, and then request an educational consult with your pharmacist when filling the prescription. By both hearing and viewing important information about your medication, you are more likely to avoid misusing it and get the most benefit from it.

Below is an example of what a prescription medicine label looks like as well as how to read it. All pharmacy labels will look slightly different and may have the information organized slightly differently, although the included information should be the same.  Please note that most prescriptions expire 1 year after the date that the prescriber writes it, but the expiration date of the medication itself is often different and always listed on the prescription label.

Image courtesy of

The Campus Health Services Pharmacy offers consultations with pharmacists who are well-versed in the needs and issues of college students. Please utilize this service! Common questions you may consider asking include:

  1. How should I take this medication?
  2. How much should I take?
  3. Is this ok to take after drinking/smoking/using other drugs?
  4. I sometimes take (insert herbal medication, OTC medication, other prescriptions). Are there any interactions?
  5. Will this impact my life in any way (driving, sleeping, mood, etc.)?
  6. Are there other options if I don’t want the effects you’ve described?
  7. Do you have any tips on how I can remember to take this at the right time?
  8. What do I do if I forget to take a dose?
  9. How long should I take this medication?

Many of these questions can also be answered with critical reading of the medication bottle and the patient information that comes with it, but some may be more specific to you and your needs. Ask your pharmacist or health care provider your questions. If you forget to ask an important question or have one arise after you’ve left, please contact your pharmacy. The Campus Health Pharmacy phone number is 919-966-6554.

FDA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)

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