Safely disposing of unwanted medicines protects public health by reducing the amount of medicines available for misuse and keeping waste medicines out of the environment. Reducing access to unwanted household medicines is a key part of a comprehensive approach to reducing prescription drug abuse, preventable poisonings and overdose.
In 2013 the King County Board of Health adopted the Secure Medicine Return Regulations establishing a product stewardship program that is funded by drug companies selling medicine into King County. The new program, launched on February 16, 2017, will collect and safely dispose of unwanted and expired medicines from residents of the county. There are 99 drop-boxes located throughout King County and there is no cost to residents to use this service.
More than 50 percent of seniors take more than five medications or supplements daily. Storing medicines that are no longer needed with these five or more medications can put seniors at risk for not taking medications as prescribed. These unwanted medicines are also accessible to others for misuse. Seniors can stay safe by only storing the medicines that are being used and safely disposing of the unwanted medicines that are no longer needed at a medicine return drop-box. Residents that are home bound or have limited mobility can also request a mail-back envelope to dispose of unwanted medicines.
Safely disposing of unwanted medicines also helps keep our kids, families and community safe. Children can be curious and can get into medicines or mistake them for candy. A leading cause of preventable poisoning for children under age six is medicines found in the home. And unwanted medicines in the home also provides access to teens and others who misuse drugs. Many teens mistakenly believe it is safe to misuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs because they get them from the home medicine cabinet. More than half of teens surveyed say they get the drugs they abuse from their family or friend’s medicine cabinet, often without anyone’s knowledge.
To find a medicine return drop-box in your community or to learn more about the program visit our website at www.MedicineReturn.org.