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Oct. 23 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, reminders on how to dispose of old meds

Posted at 4:43 PM, Oct 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 19:47:54-04

As National Prescription Drug Take Back Day approaches, local opioid safety coalitions and the Drug Enforcement Administration remind Americans how to dispose of unneeded medications that, in some cases, could become a gateway to addiction.

The CDC says opioid-related deaths accounted for 75% of all overdose deaths in 2020. According to the DEA, Take Back Day has removed more than 7,000 tons of medication from circulation since the campaign began in 2016. The DEA says it is their priority to combat the rise of overdoses in the United States.

"The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic-drug overdoses are up thirty percent over the last year alone and taking more than 250 lives every day," said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. "The majority of opioid addictions in America start with prescription pills found in medicine cabinets at home. What's worse, criminal drug networks are exploiting the opioid crisis by making and falsely marketing deadly, fake pills as legitimate prescriptions, which are now flooding U.S. communities. One thing is clear: prevention starts at home."

Both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties have formed Opioid Safety Coalitions to address the local epidemic of opioid misuse and provide community members with helpful resources.

The Santa Barbara County Opioid Safety Coalition shares how to safely dispose of unused medications:

  • Check the Package: If there are specific instructions for disposal on the label, package, or package insert, follow those instructions. Do not flush medications down the toilet unless specifically instructed to do so.
  • Convenient Kiosks: To find convenient kiosks for safe disposal of medications in your area, visit A list for Santa Barbara County can be found here. San Luis Obispo County kiosks can be found here.
  • Mail-Back: Mail-back services are available in your area. Visit the mail-back section of to order a mail-back package.
  • In-Home Disposal: Remove medication from original container and mix with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container and throw in your household trash.
  • Dispose of needles safely: Do not recycle needles or throw them in the trash or toilet. For local guidance on sharps disposal in California and to locate container disposal options near you, visit:

For those who do not live on along the Central Coast, the DEA's Office has put together a Take Back Day Collection Site Search where people can search any state or zip code for a site where unused medications can be disposed of.

A variety of resources including where to get Narcan locally, local recovery events and support, and data on opioid use in Santa Barbara and SLO Counties can be found on the SLO County website and