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Drug Take-Back and Disposal

New Federal Regulations Provide for Pharmacies and Hospitals to Collect Unused Drugs

In 2014, U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations expanded the types of locations allowed to accept unwanted medications on a routine basis. However, the potentially authorized collectors - drug manufacturers, distributors, narcotic treatment programs, retail pharmacies, and hospitals - must modify their DEA registration to become authorized collectors.  As of late 2015, there are 615 authorized collectors nationwide. Find out if your community has authorized collectors via DEA's website or by phoning their Call Center at 1-800-882-9539. The DEA will continue holding National Take-Back Days twice a year (see below) while these and other collectors' take back programs are launched and expanded.

Before this, pharmacies and hospitals were banned from accepting unwanted prescription drugs. The public's only legal option to discard them safely was to give them to a law enforcement agency. But instead, most people flushed them down the toilet, threw them in the trash, or kept them in the household medicine cabinet, resulting in contamination of the water supply and the theft and abuse of the prescription drugs.

    What Is the Issue?

    Read an overview of what pharmaceuticals and personal care products are, and how they threaten water quality.

    What YOU Can Do

    Don't flush your unused medications down the toilet. This allows them to get into the water stream which can impact fish, wildlife, or even you. Dispose of unused medications properly by finding a local take-back location (see below) or altering the medications by mixing with kitty litter or coffee grounds and disposing of it in the trash.

    Permanent Collection Boxes in Oregon

    More than 50 Oregon communities have established permanent, free collection boxes that are open year-round for safe and anonymous disposal of unused drugs. The form of drugs accepted varies by location. In general, all locations will accept drugs in pill/capsule form, but are not likely to accept "sharps" (e.g., hypodermic needles) or mercury-containing thermometers. Acceptance of medical creams varies; check by location on list linked below. These collection boxes are intended for household disposal (not from businesses).

    Other Safe Disposal Options

    If a drug take-back opportunity is not available in your area, consider these disposal options and special instructions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when throwing out expired, unwanted, or unused medicines.

    Oregon Public Water Providers are Taking Action!

    In 2013, Clackamas River Water Providers installed more drug collection boxes around Clackamas County (now 10) and established a website and brochure explaining how to protect their local surface and groundwater supplies from contamination by properly disposing of pharmaceuticals. Their project received Source Water Protection funding (federal grant money) via our agency, Oregon Drinking Water Services.

    • Your drinking water supplier may also be eligible for grant or loan funds to implement projects that will better protect public drinking water sources (either surface or groundwater sources). Grants up to $30,000 per water system and loans up to $100,000 per system are available. Visit the Drinking Water Source Protection Fund page to learn more.

    Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

    The U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been holding National Prescription Drug Take-Back events in April and September for 10 years. These are usually held on the last Saturday of the month between the hours of 10 am-2 pm. Sites are set up throughout communities nationwide so local residents can return their unwanted, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs for safe disposal.  Collection sites in every community can be found by going to the DEAs website. As each Take-Back Day approaches, their website is continuously updated with new collection locations.

    Residents of the Pacific Northwest responded overwhelmingly during the September 2015 Take-Back Day.  In a four hour period, residents of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska turned in a record breaking 33,919 pounds (17 tons) of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at the 171 take-back sites. In Oregon alone, 8,934 pounds (4.5 tons) were removed from circulation that day, averting both possible misuse/abuse by humans and contamination of water resources.

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