How to Dispose of Medicine Safely in Hoboken + Jersey City

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The number of Americans taking medications has grown rapidly over the last two decades, according to STAT, a medical news site. And we are, more often than not, prescribed a larger amount of medicines than actually needed. Take opioids as an example, researchers have shown that doctors tend to prescribe more pills than needed for post-surgery pain relief. Some of these unused medications end up in the back of our medicine cabinets, which may pose significant health hazards to children, pets, and other family members if inadvertently taken. 

So, what should we do with these unused medicines other than letting them sit in the medicine cabinet? Read on to learn how to dispose of used medications safely and responsibly — including drop-off sites in Hoboken and Jersey City.

 spilled bottle

What Not to Do

pill bottle

Keeping unused medicines at home can be considered unsafe since there is a possibility of misuse, but it’s not a good idea to indiscriminately dump unused medicine into the trash or flush them down the toilet. 

“[The medicine will] get into the water supply. That’s not a great thing. Dumping them in the trash, again, goes into potentially a landfill or some other place that eventually could contaminate groundwater,” according to Alicia Sasser Modestino, a health economist at Northeastern University in Boston. Given the risk of misuse and contamination, unused prescription drugs are best handled by professionals, or if they are not readily available, treated with extra caution.

Finding a Drug Take-Back Site

The safest way to dispose of most types of drugs is to drop them off at a take-back site. The DEA {Drug Enforcement Administration} has a list of authorized businesses and facilities that collect unused, unwanted, and expired drugs. 

Hoboken and Jersey City residents can find such drug collection bins in some local pharmacies during regular pharmacy hours {the boxes may be locked at other times}. See the list below for details. In general, solid pharmaceuticals, such as pills, patches, and inhalers, as well as small amounts of liquid or gel in bottles are accepted at these places. In addition, secured drop boxes can also be found at some local police departments {see below for addresses}, and they can be used 24/7.  Pills need to be put in pill cases before being dropped off at the police department boxes. No questions will be asked at any drop off-site. You simply leave the drugs in the boxes as if putting a letter in a mailbox. 

Read More: All About Hoboken Integrated Healthcare’s Holistic Healing Practice

Police Departments with Take-Back Boxes:

Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, 257 Cornelison Avenue, Jersey City

Jersey City Police Department {East District}, 207 7th Street, Jersey City

Jersey City Police Department {North District}, 282 Central Avenue, Jersey City

Jersey City Police Department {South District}, 91 Bergen Avenue, Jersey City

Pharmacies with Take-Back Boxes

CVS Pharmacy, 59 Washington Street, Hoboken

DifferRx Pharmacy, 492 Central Avenue, Jersey City

Duane Reade, 110 Newark Avenue, Jersey City

RiteAid Pharmacy, 2859-61 Kennedy Boulevard, Jersey City

Walgreen Pharmacy, 2395 Kennedy Boulevard, Jersey City

RiteAid Pharmacy, 981 West Side Avenue, Jersey City

What If I Can’t Access a Take-Back Site?

Going to a drug take-back site should always be the first resort to safely dispose of unwanted medication. If, however, for any reason, a take-back option is not immediately available, the FDA also has a set of guidelines to dispose of these drugs safely. The treatment depends on the nature of the medication.

For Very Dangerous Medicines, Flush Them, According to the FDA:

If a drug is especially harmful or even fatal to unintended users {such as fentanyl, an extremely addictive opioid}, then the FDA recommends “immediately flushing [them] down the toilet” since the risk of exposure to such dangerous substances outweighs that of water supply contamination. 

Click here for the small “flush list” of substances that the FDA recommends flushing immediately, as well as their corresponding brand names. 

Again, only flush these drugs down the toilet if a take-back option is not immediately accessible as these can also get into the water supply.

For Other Medicines, Throw Them Into the Household Trash, But Only After a Few Precautionary Steps:

Drugs that are not on the flush list can generally be thrown into the trash if a take-back box cannot be accessed. A few precautions need to be taken before throwing them away:

  1. Discarding the original package. The FDA recommends discarding the original package, mixing them with unpalatable materials, such as coffee grinds, to make them less appealing or unrecognizable.
  2. Putting them in sealable containers to prevent leakage.
  3. Before throwing them away, remember to peel off or shred any labels or information sheets with your personal information.

See More: Primary Care Services Available in Hudson County

For those who are unsure what to do with a specific drug, or worry about the potential environmental impact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has this very useful website where the usage, storage, and disposal information of almost all medications can be searched and found.

Needles + Syringes

Most take-back sites mentioned above do not accept sharp medical waste such as used needles and syringes. However, it’s critical to handle these sharps carefully since improper disposal may cause injury, disease transmission, or even misuse. 

Unfortunately, Hoboken and Jersey City currently do not have a special syringe disposal facility. The Hoboken Environmental Service recommends the following steps for local residents who regularly or occasionally use needles, syringes, or lancets at home:

  1. Find a rigid container with a tight screw-on cap. You can use a laundry detergent bottle, or buy a special container designed to hold sharp objects. Make sure to clip any needles using a needle clipper {available at pharmacies or on Amazon. Do not use scissors}. and put the used needles or syringes in the container. 
  2. Tightly screw the cap on, and wrap the container with duct tape, put a warning label on it {such as “Syringe, Do Not Recycle”}, and throw it into household trash. It should not put it into the recycle pile.

Another option is to ask your physician if his or her clinic takes back used syringes, and if so, how you should properly handle them {such as placing them in a secure container} before taking them back. If you are undergoing fertility treatments {which have a large amount of disposable syringes}, most of the time the pharmacy will give a container to collect syringes and bring them back to the site.

In general, when it comes to medications, it’s important to be conscious and keep vigilant, following the safe practices, and spreading the word to friends and family. It only takes small steps to make our homes and community safer and healthier.

Will you be using any of these tips with your unused medicine? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by:

Yiwei was born and raised in China. She has lived extensively in Beijing and Hong Kong, before finally settling down in New York. She moved to Hoboken after a few years in Westchester and immediately felt at home here. Two years ago, she left her job at an investment bank to travel the world and explore her interests, and has since then taken on a few freelancing gigs in career coaching, college admission consulting, and writing. When she is not wandering wildly in the streets of Europe, Asia, or Latin America, she can be found sipping an espresso in one of Hoboken's coffee shops or trying out restaurants in Hoboken and Jersey City area.