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Safe Disposal of Medication and Drug Take Back Day

Dispose of Medications Properly

Don't flush unused medications down the toilet or drain.

Flushing medications means they can get into our water system which can impact fish, wildlife, or even you.

Drug collection boxUnless your medicine specifically states you should dispose of it by flushing, try one of these options instead. Find a collection box in Oregon, take medications to a DEA-authorized collection site, drop them off during a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, or check out these safe disposal options and special instructions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To learn more about this issue, read an overview of what pharmaceuticals and personal care products are, and how they threaten water quality.

In addition to protecting our water supply, properly disposing of medications can help prevent accidental poisoning, misuse and overdose.

Safe Disposal

Permanent collection boxes in Oregon
DEA-authorized collection sites
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day (April and September)
You can mix medications with kitty litter or coffee grounds, put in a sealed container, and throw in the trash. Check out more safe disposal options.

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 or capsule form, but are not likely to accept "sharps" (like hypodermic needles) or thermometers that contain mercury. Acceptance of medical creams varies; check by location on list linked below.

These collection boxes are intended for household disposal, not from businesses.

Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) holds a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day twice a year in April and October. These are usually held on the last Saturday of the month between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm. Sites are set up throughout communities nationwide so local residents can return their unwanted, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs for safe disposal. As each Take Back Day approaches, their website is continuously updated with new collection locations.

During the 24th National Take Back Day in April 2023, Oregon residents turned in 4,897 pounds (almost 2.5 tons) of unwanted or expired medications at 20 Take Back sites. Nationally, Americans turned in 332 tons of medications at 4,955 collection sites.

Federal Regulations Now Allow Pharmacies and Hospitals to Collect Unused Drugs

In 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) changed their regulations to allow more types of locations to accept unwanted medications on a routine basis. Potentially authorized collectors - drug manufacturers, distributors, narcotic treatment programs, retail pharmacies, and hospitals - must modify their DEA registration to become authorized collectors.

To find out if your community has an authorized collector, visit DEA's website or contact their Call Center at 1-800-882-9539. The DEA will continue holding National Take Back Days twice a year while these and other collectors' take back programs are launched and expanded.

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) from 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.