Medicine Safety & Disposal


A prescription medicine is a type of medicine that gets prescribed by a healthcare practitioner or a pharmacist. Most prescription drugs are safe and effective when used for a medical condition and under a doctor's supervision. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines do not require a prescription. These types of medicine are safe and effective when the directions on the label are followed correctly. Call the Poison Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 for questions or advice on the safe use of medicines.


Safely take medicine

Prescription and OTC medicines can have serious side effects if not used correctly. Using medicine for non-medical reasons can lead to a substance use disorder, illness, or even death. Use and dispose of prescription and OTC drugs as directed. 

  • Read all labels and follow directions.
  • Take the right amount of medicine at the right time.
  • Check with your doctor before taking herbal supplements or vitamins.
  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, check with your doctor before taking any medicine.

Safely store and dispose of medicine

  • Store medicine in a locked cabinet, out of sight and reach of children.
  • Keep all medicine in their original container with child-resistant caps. Remember, child-resistant caps are not child-proof!
  • After each use, make sure the medicine cap is on tight, and return to a locked cabinet.
  • Follow directions on the medicine label and check for the expiration date.
  • Safely dispose of all medicines that are expired or not being used.
  • Do not throw medicine in the trash or down the toilet unless instructed to do so on the medicine label.
  • Find a safe medicine disposal site near you.

Prevent poisoning from medicine

Medicines contain information on their labels about ingredients, uses, drug interactions, warnings, and directions. It is important to read labels carefully and understand their information.

Grandparents or other persons taking medicine need to be mindful when having children over to their home or visiting a home with children. Child proof your home from any toxic substances. If you have bags or purses with personal items that could be harmful to a child, keep them out of sight and reach from children.

Follow the tips below to prevent poisoning from medicine for both children and adults.

  • Do not take medicine when children are watching.
  • Do not call medicine candy in front of children.
  • Do not take medicine in the dark, where you cannot clearly see the medicine and its container.
  • Never take any medicine that was not prescribed to you.
  • Never share your medicine with anyone else.

Candy or medicine?

Candy and medicine can look, smell, and taste alike. Can you tell the difference? Test your knowledge.
  1. In English Candy or Medicine?
  2. En Español ¿Dulces o me­di­ca­men­tos?

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