Safe drug disposal: National Prescription Drug Take Back Days and other year-round opportunities

Guest Contributor
Guest Contributor October 23, 2020

Safe drug disposal: National Prescription Drug Take Back Days and other year-round opportunities.

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The Pharmaceutical Product Stewardship Work Group (PPSWG) is a non-profit membership association for producers of pharmaceutical products. PPSWG was founded in 2014 to organize and facilitate cooperative efforts among pharmaceutical producers to address the disposal of unwanted, unused, or expired medicines from households. PPSWG’s vision is to facilitate the appropriate and efficient disposal of unwanted, unused, or expired household medicines.


Any medicine can have unintended effects if taken incorrectly or by someone for whom it is not prescribed. To help keep children, pets and others in your home safe from accidental ingestion or contact with products that could be potentially dangerous, it’s critical to practice safe management, storage and disposal of household medicines.

On October 24, 2020 from 10 AM to 2 PM, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will host its 19th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This biannual, nationwide event provides the public with a free and convenient opportunity for the anonymous disposal of unwanted, unused and expired household medicines. During its most recent National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in October 2019, the DEA collected over 441 tons of medications at more than 6,100 host sites across the country.

Additionally, year-round drug disposal options exist and can be found in pharmacies, law enforcement facilities  and healthcare facilities across all 50 states. Free resources such as MyOldMeds.com serve as useful tools for identifying nearby disposal locations.

Whether you plan to participate in the upcoming DEA National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, dispose of medicine safely in your household trash or take advantage of the year-round options available in your community, keep reading to learn where and how to safely dispose of unwanted household medicines.

DEA National Prescription Drug Take Back Days

The DEA’S National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is held across the United States. During the event, host sites will be collecting pills and capsules. The DEA cannot accept liquids, sharps or needles.

Where does the DEA National Prescription Drug Take Back Day take place?

To find an event site near you, use the locator tool featured on the event’s homepage here. If you do not immediately find a collection site near you, the DEA encourages visitors to continue checking back frequently, as new sites are added each day.

What steps should I take to prepare for the DEA National Prescription Drug Take Back Day?

  • First, take a look at your medicine’s label and packaging. If any specific disposal instructions are indicated, follow those instructions.
  • Then, collect the unwanted, unused and expired medicines that you plan to dispose of.
  • Next, remove or black-out any personal information from the products’ labels or packaging.
  • Keep the products in their prescription bottles or packaging and place them in a clear, sealed bag.
  • Finally, be sure to store products you plan to dispose of in a location that is hard-to-reach, out-of-sight and/or in a secure storage device (small, personal lock-boxes can be purchased online, or at your local hardware or sporting goods stores), particularly if you have children or pets in your household that may inadvertently come into contact with them.

What steps should I take when disposing medicine at home?

When disposing of medicine at home, you should first follow any instructions in the FDA-approved labeling or other recommendations from FDA. For more information, please visit the FDA website. You should also check your local regulations. For all other medicines, remove unwanted medicines (not sharps) from containers, seal in a plastic bag or container and discard with normal household trash, if permitted by your local regulations. For more information about safe needle disposal, please visit www.safeneedledisposal.org


To the extent that children or pets are present in the household, consumers may wish to mix coffee grounds, cat litter or other unpalatable home waste in with the unused medicines before sealing the mixture in a plastic bag and discarding it with normal household waste.

Year-round disposal options

MyOldMeds.com is a comprehensive website for patient education and provides an easy-to-use locator tool to find verified, publicly available medicine disposal locations across the country.

What is a kiosk site, and how can I find one near me?

A kiosk site can be a pharmacy, healthcare facility, law enforcement agency, or other location that has a kiosk where patients can drop off their unwanted, unused or expired household medicines for disposal. Just like DEA Prescription Drug Take Back Days, kiosk sites are a free, anonymous public service that anyone is welcome to use.

MyOldMeds.com features a Locator Tool that can help you find kiosk sites and pharmacies that offer free in-home disposal kits in your area. The Locator Tool also provides information on disposal sites’ hours of operation, hours of collection, what they collect, and other pertinent information.

What steps should I take to prepare to visit a kiosk site?

  • First, take a look at your medicine’s label and packaging. If any specific disposal instructions are indicated, follow those instructions. If any of your personal information can be found on the medicine’s label or packaging, remove or black-out this information before disposal.
  • Next, confirm any potential restrictions at the kiosk site. The MyOldMeds.com Locator Tool specifies any known collection restrictions for each kiosk site (for example: “No liquids” or “No Sharps”). Before heading to a disposal site, be sure to check its listing in the Locator Tool – or, better yet, give them a quick phone call to confirm.
  • Finally, confirm the kiosk site’s hours of operation. While the information provided via the Locator Tool is regularly verified and updated for accuracy, it’s always best to call to confirm before your visit in the event that its hours have been impacted by disruptions or policies related to COVID-19, a holiday or just a simple change in schedule.

Whether you plan to attend the upcoming DEA Take Back Day, dispose of medicine safely at home, or take advantage of a local disposal option in your area, taking the proper precautions when it comes to storing and disposing of your medicines can help to ensure the health and safety of your family, pets and even your community waste management professionals. Visit MyOldMeds.com for more information on safe handling, storage and disposal of household medicines.


Disclaimer: PPSWG has compiled the list of kiosk sites on the MyOldMeds.com Locator Tool based on publicly available information for your convenience but does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information. PPSWG does not endorse and denies any responsibility or liability for the kiosk sites listed, or for processes they employ for collection, transportation, treatment, or disposal of the medicines they collect. Due to possible disruptions associated with COVID-19, kiosk access to and operating hours at the listed kiosk locations may be impacted. If you have questions about a kiosk site, including current kiosk access, what can be disposed of, and hours of operation, contact the kiosk site directly. If you are not able to visit a kiosk and have immediate disposal needs visit the FDA website for additional guidance and be sure to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local legal requirements.