Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Drug Take-Back Days

Acceptable Items: Unwanted and expired medications, both prescription (non-controlled, controlled substances) and over-the-counter, in tablet, capsule, ointment, inhaler, powder, cream, or patch form.

No sharps or needles of any kind, or liquids will be accepted.

Cost to participate: Free of charge

Locations: Multiple locations throughout western PA. Visit the DEA website for access to a complete listing of registered drop-off locations.

Program Overview

Since 2010, PRC has been committed to facilitating and implementing pharmaceutical collections, as well as educating residents about the potentially serious health, environmental, and social impacts of storing and disposing of medications improperly. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began hosting National Prescription Drug Take-Back events in 2010, with PRC coming on board as a regional partner in early 2011.

The DEA Drug Take-Back Days program addresses vital public safety, public health, and environmental issues. Many Americans are not aware that medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are at alarming rates, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that many abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, many Americans do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicine, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away – both potential safety and health hazards.

Additional Disposal Options

PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Permanent Drop-off Boxes – The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) provides grants to local communities that facilitate the installation of secure and permanent prescription drug drop-off boxes throughout PA. The service is free and confidential. The boxes are typically sited in police departments or security offices and overseen by law enforcement. Currently there are only four sites in Allegheny County.

DEA “Authorized Collector” Sites – The September 2014 DEA ruling authorizes a variety of DEA registrants including retail pharmacies to modify their registration with the DEA to become “authorized collectors.” The public may find authorized collectors in their communities by calling the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539 or by visiting the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control “authorized collectors” webpage. Presently there are only a small handful of “authorized collectors” in the Pittsburgh/Allegheny County region. Each is a small independent retail pharmacy’s.

Treat and Throw The least desirable method of disposal currently available is the outdated “treat and throw” method. The “treat and throw” process allows residents to dispose of medications at home. If there are no specific instructions on the label of how to discard the medication, the drugs are placed in the home garbage. First though, the medications are taken out of the original containers and mixed with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds, cat litter, baking flour, or cooking oil. The idea is to make wet ingredients dry, and dry ingredients wet thereby making the medications non-palatable/usable. The mixture is then placed in a sealable bag or other closable container and disposed of in the regular trash.

Pre-paid Mailing Bags – Some local retail pharmacy chains sell pre-paid mailing bags (ranging from $3 to $5.49 each) that can be filled with medications and mailed to companies that destroy the contents according to federal laws. A major downside of this program is that controlled substances cannot be included in the package. The envelopes are rather small, which severely limits the amount of medications that can be processed.

Medsaway Disposal System – The Medsaway Medication Disposal System ($3.99) that instructs consumers to empty liquid and solid pharmaceuticals into a carbon lined pouch followed by adding water. According to the manufacturer the contents are neutralized. The filled pouch is then sealed and discarded in the regular trash. This is a subtle variation of the Treat and Throw Method. They can be purchased online or at select pharmacies.

If you have questions, please contact Sarah Shea at [email protected] or 412-488-7452.