Safe Disposal

Safe Disposal of Prescription Drugs

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends immediate disposal of prescription opioids and other controlled substances by flushing. While unused, unwanted, and expired medications should not be flushed down the toilet or put in drains, as these medications eventually enter streams, lakes, and rivers, and can potentially cause irreversible negative consequences to our environment, the known risk of harm far outweighs any potential risk to humans or the environment from flushing these medicines. 

Preferably, people can take their unused and unwanted medications to participating Walgreen, CVS, and other pharmacies during normal pharmacy hours; to the monthly take-back events at the 21 Sheriff's Stations; and to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)'s bi-annual National Prescription Drug Take-back Events for anonymous and safe disposal in LAC

The DEA National Prescription Drug Take-back Events have garnered an overwhelming community response with increasing turnout over the years. At the first bi-annual National Prescription Drug Take-back Event in September 2010, 8,190 pounds of prescription drugs were dropped off in the Los Angeles Area (Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties). This number had increased and remained high for subsequent events, with 30,985 pounds collected in April 2017 (Figure 1), though the yield decreased to 19,886 in October 2018. 

Similarly, the number of pounds of prescription drugs collected from 24-hour safe drug drop off collection boxes at designated Sheriff's stations in LAC increased in recent years. The yield increased from 4,113 in 2009 to 20,679 in 2012 (Figure 2). In late 2017, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department modified their safe drop-off program to implement monthly take back event days instead of unmanned 24-hour drop off boxes at the Sheriff's stations due to personnel safety concerns. However, there will continue to be no questions asked and no criminal consequences if illicit narcotics are dropped off during the designated dates.

Figure 1. Pounds of prescription medications collected from bi-annual National Prescription Drug Take-back events in Los Angeles Area, 2010-2018
Source: DEA Los Angeles Division News Releases

Figure 2. Pounds of prescription medications collected from safe drug disposal collection boxes at designated Sheriff's stations, 2009-2012
Source: Los Angeles Sheriff's Department


Figure 1. Drug Enforcement Administration. Los Angeles Division News Releases.

Figure 2. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.!ut/p/c4/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3hLAwMDd3-nYCN3M19LA0_nEDPvMJMAQ39jA_2CbEdFAFVdgp4!/?current=true&urile=wcm:path:/lasd+content/lasd+site/home/home+top+stories/nationwide+drug+drop+off+unused+prescription+drugs+sat+9-25-10