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How You Can Help

What’s in your medicine cabinet?

Man sorting pills in medicine cabinet

A common way that people get opioids illicitly is by taking them out of other people’s medicine cabinets. Opioid medicines should be stored in a locked location.

Do not take someone else’s opioids. And do not share your pain medicine with others.

Safe Disposal of Medication

When medications are no longer needed, they should be disposed of using one of the following methods below. Flushing them down the toilet is not recommended — they could contaminate the water.

  • Take medication to a pharmacy that provides a drug take-back program, including the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Outpatient Pharmacy locations.
  • Visit the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s website to locate additional sites that collect pain medicines. You may also consider contacting your city or county government for local collection sites.
  • Make the opioid unusable:
    • Take the prescription drugs out of the original container.
    • Mix drugs with an unwanted substance, such as dirt, kitty litter or dish soap.
    • Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty butter tub.
    • Remove or mark out any personal information on the empty medicine bottle with a permanent marker or duct tape, or scratch it off.
    • Dispose of the sealed container with the drug mixture and the empty medicine bottles in the household trash.

Medication Drop-off Locations

Any unused or expired medication, whether it is an opioid or another type of prescription medicine, can be dropped off at drug disposal units at outpatient pharmacies on the campuses of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. The service is offered during pharmacy hours of operation.

To dispose of medication, it must be in its original container. The following medications are acceptable for drop-off at Johns Hopkins outpatient pharmacy locations:

  • Pills, tablets, capsules
  • Ointments, creams and lotions
  • Powders
  • Liquid medicines — no more than 4 ounces (120 milliliters)

Solutions and suspensions must be wrapped in a paper towel and sealed in a plastic bag before being placed in the disposal unit. Paper towels and plastic bags are available at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Outpatient pharmacies at no cost.

Contact your community’s household hazardous waste department for information on proper disposal of medications not on this list.

For more prescription drop-off locations, check with your local police department or visit the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back website.

Safe Disposal at Home

If you are unable to dispose of opioids at a drug take-back location, follow these steps to make the medication unusable:

  • Take the prescription drugs out of the original container.
  • Mix the medicine with an unwanted substance, such as dirt, kitty litter or dish soap.
  • Place the mixture into a disposal container with a lid, such as an empty butter tub.
  • Remove or mark out any personal information on the empty medicine bottle.
  • Place the sealed container with the drug mixture and the empty medicine bottle in the household trash.