Unwanted Medications

Image of medication bottles

Unwanted medications are medications that are outdated or no longer needed. People often inherit prescription or over-the-counter drugs when a relative or friend passes away.

Where can you take unwanted medications?

Controlled substances - drugs or chemicals whose manufacture, possession and use are regulated by the Controlled Substances Act which is enforced the Drug Enforcement Administration. CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES may include illegal drugs or prescription medications such as pain killers and tranquilizers. 

  • Controlled substances can be taken to local participating police departments.  (Please note that as of July 2016, the Clark County Sheriff's office is no longer accepting any medications.)

Non-controlled substances - over-the-counter drugs as well as some prescriptions that are not regulated by the Controlled Substances Act).

  • Only non-controlled substances can be taken to the transfer station as household hazardous waste. Disposal is free on some weekend days. Days and hours vary by location - Check for days and times>>

To determine if you have a CONTROLLED or NON-CONTROLLED substance, ask your doctor or pharmacist or call the National Poison Hotline at 1.800.222.1222.


Always call before transporting unwanted medications. Not all medications can be taken to every disposal site. Some medications must be taken to special sites for proper disposal.

Prior to transporting your unwanted medications, be sure that:

  • They are in the original container with the name of the medicine visible.
  • They are in a container that is not leaking and is capable of being be sealed.
  • All patient information has either been removed or obscured.

Why is improper disposal of unwanted medications dangerous?

Improper disposal of unwanted medications can result in serious harm to humans, animals, and the environment. Proper drug disposal is an emerging issue in the environmental arena. All medications applied or ingested may be excreted or washed into sewage systems and discharged to the environment. The risks posed to humans by long-term consumption of minute quantities of medications in drinking water, as well as the risks to the environment by continual exposure are unknown. Flushing unwanted medications down the toilet or throwing them in the garbage just adds to the problem.

Medications in our wastewater

In 2002 the United States Geological Survey (USGS) published the results of a two-year study that included nationwide sampling and analysis of streams for wastewater contaminants including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and hormones. The study results indicated that many wastewater contaminants were present at detectable quantities in rivers across the nation. While the concentrations detected in the study were low, and rarely exceeded drinking water guidelines or aquatic life criteria, the USGS pointed out that standards haven’t been set for many compounds because we don’t yet know enough about them or their effect on human or environmental health.