Frequently Asked Questions
Can you flush medicine down the toilet?
Until recently, federal guidelines recommended flushing or sewering of unused medications to prevent drug diversion. This practice is now known to cause contamination of waterways that may negatively impact public health and wildlife.
For household medications, the FDA website provides clarity on how to safely dispose of them. The FDA, DEA, and EPA recommend drug take back or mailback programs as the first line approach. If drug take back programs are not available in your community, check the FDA website or view this helpful infographic for instructions on what to do.
How do I get rid of leftover medications?
If you’re an individual consumer, you can take your expired or unused medication to a Stericycle collection kiosk at your local pharmacy, hospital, or police station, or dispose your leftover medication with a Seal&Send medication mail back envelope. The DEA also hosts public drug take back days twice a year at local law enforcement agencies. If you’re not sure which options are available to you, you can talk to your pharmacist about the best way to safely dispose your medications. Drug take back is the safest and most sustainable option for consumer drug disposal and should always be used unless it’s unavailable in your community.
Pharmaceutical waste generated from a commercial business (such as a hospital, doctor’s office or pharmacy) is regulated differently than medication waste generated from a residence or household. Commercially-generated pharmaceutical waste is regulated by EPA and DOT during transportation and disposal. If you’re a business or organization, it’s critical to partner with a knowledgeable and qualified waste expert, like Stericycle, to help you navigate this regulatory landscape.
What do I do if there are no drug take back programs in my community?
Stericycle provides drug take back services to governments, pharmacies, non-profits, and businesses, who in turn provide these services to their communities. If your community doesn’t have safe or easily accessible programs, contact your local elected officials, health department, pharmacies, drug coalitions, employers, or other community organizations and ask them to provide safe drug disposal programs in your area. To help identify the nearest location, the DEA has an online database, which is searchable by zip code or city/state. The agency updates its list frequently to give the latest information about approved disposal locations.
Who can distribute Seal&Send medication mail back envelopes?
The great thing about Seal&Send envelopes is that they can be distributed by any organization to any individual for home drug disposal, without any DEA registration required by the distributor.
This means that drug and opioid coalitions, government agencies, pharmacies, employers, health insurance and employee benefits providers, public venues, schools, churches, health clinics, dentist offices, and anyone in between can acquire and distribute Seal&Send envelopes to people for home use.
What goes in a medication mail back envelope?
Seal&Send medication mail back envelopes can accept up to 8 oz of consumer/household generated medications, including prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications and supplements. This may include DEA schedules II-V controlled substances, tablets/pills, liquids, and creams. (Of the total 8 oz. capacity per envelope, up to 4 oz. can be from liquids.)
The envelopes cannot accept pharmaceutical waste that is commercially generated by a business or organization, DEA schedule I controlled substances/illicit drugs, needles or sharps, aerosols/inhalers, or any non-pharmaceutical items such as thermometers or bulk chemicals.
Which agencies regulate medication mail back programs?
Consumer medication mail back programs are regulated by:
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- State and Local Boards of Pharmacy, Departments of Health, and Departments of Environmental Quality (in some regions)
What kinds of data can be tracked from medication disposal programs and how can it be used?
Stericycle’s data analytics reporting capabilities are an important feature of our Seal&Send medication mail back programs. We track individual envelope serial numbers and receipt dates by carton and can provide an average weight per envelope to facilitate calculations around total pounds collected for your organization.
This data can be used to ensure your program is in full compliance with DEA regulations, optimize your distribution campaigns, and prove program usage to justify the return on your investment.
You can also use this data to report back to the communities you serve with press releases and other marketing communications to let them know how many drugs you’ve removed from people’s homes – possibly preventing drug abuse and saving lives!
Where are Stericycle’s drug take back solutions available?
Currently, Stericycle’s Seal&Send medication mail back envelopes are available for use in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
Currently, both of Stericycle’s kiosk service models are available in 47 states. We can also offer our self-service option in Connecticut, Alaska and Hawaii– please contact us for details.
What are the benefits of Seal&Send medication disposal over drug neutralizing solutions for home use?
There are many benefits to drug take back programs, including drug take back kiosks and medication mail back envelopes, over drug neutralizing solutions for at-home, consumer use.
- Preferred by Federal Agencies
- Meet DEA, FDA, and EPA preferred recommendations for safe household drug disposal via medical waste incineration
- Collection kiosks are conveniently located at pharmacies and hospitals where people already go to pick up their prescriptions and receive healthcare.
- Seal&Send envelopes are very simple and easy to use for at-home disposal. Simply drop the drugs into the anonymous, prepaid envelope, seal it, and drop into the mailbox. No complicated mixing requirements.
- Drug take back programs that utilize incineration completely removes leftover drugs from homes and the environment. This prevents pharmaceutical waste, plastics, and liquids from ending up in garbage and landfills – protecting waterways and drinking water systems.
- Cost Effectiveness
- Kiosk boxes can contain about 33 gallons or up to 65 pounds of drugs per box – the lowest cost per pound disposal option available.
- Seal&Send envelopes can hold up to 8 oz of drugs for at-home use – more capacity than most drug neutralizing products.
- All packages received and destroyed are tracked and can provide valuable program insights and justify return on investment