U.S. Department of Health & Human Services


Poison Help 1-800-222-1222 [logo]

Increase font size


When accidents happen with chemicals, medicine, or household items, call Poison Help. Get help right away from a local poison expert.

If someone is unconscious or has trouble breathing, call 911.




I found some pills in an unlabeled bottle. How do I find out what they are?

Some poison centers can identify pills. Call the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center, or your local pharmacy for more information.

Is it dangerous to take expired medicine?

Yes – never take expired medicine. The expiration date is there for your protection.

How can I get rid of medicines safely?

  • Ask your local pharmacist how you can return unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs to pharmaceutical take-back locations for safe disposal.
  • Call the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center, for specific advice and take-back services available in your area.
  • If these programs are not available, take the medicines out of their original containers. Mix the drugs with an undesirable substance, such as kitty litter, and put them in waterproof containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags, to make sure that they are not used by other people or animals. Make sure to throw these containers in the trash.

Are adults at risk when they use medicines?

Adults may have trouble reading labels, fail to follow instructions, or mix medicines and alcohol together. Some people may confuse one medicine for another. Others may take too much of a medicine.

What can people do to protect themselves from medicines that have been tampered with?

Most medicines come in packaging that prevents tampering. However, that does not mean it cannot happen. To protect yourself and your family from tampered medicines:

  • Check the outer packaging. Look before you buy.
  • Read the label. Over-the-counter medicines tell you on the label how to detect tampering.
  • If you think there could be a problem with a drug or its package, show the store manager.
  • Check the product inside after you open it. Look again before you take the product. If it looks strange, do not use it.
  • Look for pills that are different from others in the package.
  • Do not use any medicine from a package that has cuts, slices, tears or other marks.
  • Never take medicine in the dark.
  • Read the label and look at the medicine every time you take it.
Return to top