QUESTION: What do I do with medications I have but no longer take?

I often speak to medications and costs and how to obtain them, but this is the other end of the medication change. Do NOT flush your unused medications down the toilet! Those medications/chemicals are toxic to our water table and the surrounding environment.

This unused may be medication we no longer take, medication that has expired, medications not needed due to a death or moving into a nursing home (they can’t accept the medications we have already purchased). There are all types of reasons that we have these medications lying around. Now what do we do with them?

There are a number of states across the country that allow you to donate your medication back into an appropriate agency and then it is given to someone who can’t afford their medication. New York State does not have a system set up to donate your medications back to an organization that allows them to be redistributed to someone else.

There are a number of locations in the area that have unused medication receptacles that you can bring your medication to and drop off. The U.S. Department of Justice/DEA has a web tool that allows you to put in a zip code and find Controlled Substance Disposal Locations near you. This is to be used for all medications, but are designed for those that are considered Controlled Substances, like pain medication, narcotics, etc. Jamestown Police Department, and many pharmacies have drop box type services that allow you to drop off unused medications.

There may be another alternatives, I recently learned of a not for profit founded at Stanford University and a Y Combinator Alumni, called SIRUM. SIRUM allows you to donate and repurpose your unused medications through a specific approved process. This process permits you to FedEx unused medication to SIRUM to redistribute to those in need. The medication must meet the following criteria; cannot be a controlled substance, will not expire for at least 3 months, is in sealed packaging, and does not require refrigeration. There is a shipping charge ($10). Questions can be directed to 650-488-7434 or Further information is available on the web at

I think this is a great idea and hope that more medication can be ‘repurposed’ in this fashion.

When trying a new medication, maybe it makes sense to get a 7 day or 14 day supply first to see if you have any adverse reaction to it (that is the purpose of free samples), then fill a 30-day supply, then switch to 90-day if you choose to continue to take it regularly. This slower purchasing of medication could save you money and prevent unused medication from being in your home.

I would ask you to think carefully before using automatic refills. This can produce many excess medications being put into our system. If you don’t catch the call, or forget to cancel the refill, you get sent medications you don’t need. Once filled and mailed these medications cannot be returned. This is a significant waste of perfectly good medications and dollars. An insurance company and YOU are paying for this unused medication.

For many of us the convenience of not paying attention to how many pills are left in the bottle is worth knowing we have medication ahead. We must also consider that we never know what is going to happen to any of us. If we are getting 30-day supply instead of 90-day supplies or calling to order our medication when the bottle is looking empty we could be saving ourselves and our healthcare system significant dollars.

I understand that a 90-day supply saves us money, but if the medication goes unused, you paid for medications you didn’t need.

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions and concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call us at 716-720-9797 or e-mail at