There’s a National Take Back day each year when people can turn in unneeded or expired prescription medications to local drug enforcement agents. Disposing of medication this way is the most effective method to keep people and animals safe from accidentally or purposely taking drugs they don’t need. Take back programs aren't always available, though. I tried a sample of a product called Pill Terminator that can be used in homes, schools, doctor’s offices, hospitals, veterinary clinics and more when no take back is available.

It’s simple to use. The bottle for the Pill Terminator looks like a vitamin bottle. Inside is a powder mixture that breaks down medication and renders it unpalatable. Up to 300 pills can go in the bottle. When warm water is poured over them, the lid is securely fastened, and everything shaken together so the pills are destroyed. The whole thing goes in the trash, keeping the pills away from people or animals and also keeping the medication out of waterways.

I thought I had gotten rid of all the old medication from five years ago when my mother stayed in my home after she had heart surgery, but recently I found several bottles of expired pills high up in back of a cabinet. I used the sample of the Pill Terminator I was sent to dispose of them.

The product worked exactly like it said it would. After shaking the pills and warm water in the bottle with the powder mixture, the entire contents of the bottle congealed. I threw the bottle with the destroyed pills into the trash. The way I disposed of them exceeds FDA and EPA guidelines for disposal of prescription medications.

The guidelines say not to flush any medications or toilet unless specific instructions say to do so. The first choice is to find a take back program. If there is no take back program, the pills are supposed to be mixed with an undesirable substance like coffee grounds or kitty litter, seal it in a bag and put it securely in the garbage.

I asked the people at Pill Terminator why their product might be preferable to coffee grounds or kitty litter, and this is what they told me.

  • Kitty litter and coffee grinds only mask over the medications and give a distasteful taste. Pill Terminator breaks down the medications.
  • Not everyone owns a cat. A non-cat owner has to go out and buy kitty litter.
  • Not everyone brews coffee at home. And instant coffee will not work.
Keeping unneeded medications around the house poses risks so they should be disposed of responsibly. Take back programs are preferred, but if one isn’t optional, check out The Pill Terminator and see if it’s a good option for you.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

A safe way to dispose of unwanted pills at home
When there’s no take back program for unneeded or expired medications, the Pill Terminator makes them unpalatable to people and animals.