Keep Your Community Safe

A child pours out several blue pills from a medication bottle onto a high counter top.
Medication take-back bins provide easy disposal options to keep old medications out of harm's way.

Medication take-back bins help keep communities safe and clean

by Anne Stokes

Whether to cure disease, ease pain or prevent illness, prescription medications keep people healthy. Unfortunately, along with the power to heal, drugs also have the potential to cause harm when misused or improperly discarded. Drug take-back bins provide safe and convenient ways to keep unused medications out of the environment and out of the hands of those who would misuse them.

“Take-back bins provide a safe place for people to put their unwanted or expired medications,” says Sgt. Brian Gunsolley of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. “There’s so much medication being dispensed into the community, we want to get rid of and get it out of the environment so that young people won’t have an opportunity to use that medication.”

Don’t rush to flush

Even in the recent past, people were advised to flush unused medications down the drain or throw them away in the trash. Unfortunately, most wastewater treatment facilities can’t remove pharmaceuticals, meaning what gets flushed down the drain pollutes the same watersheds that often supply communities’ drinking water.

Not getting rid of unused medications has its risks

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 45 Americans died every day from prescription opioid overdoses in 2021, for a total of 280,000 deaths. And this was nearly five times the number of deaths in 1999. Similarly, two-thirds of teens who admit to abusing painkillers say they got them out of home medicine cabinets. And each year, approximately 59,000 children in the U.S. end up in emergency departments because of accidental poisoning.

“One of our biggest problems is that kids are getting their hands on these medications. They go over to grandma and grandpa’s house where there are lots of medications and they’ll take some pills,” Gunsolley explains. “That’s really dangerous for teenagers: They can get addicted, they can overdose, they can go to a party and mix it with alcohol or other drugs, and that can be fatal.”

A better option

According to Gunsolley, one of the most common reasons people don’t use medication take-back bins is the fact they don’t know the resource exists.

“A lot of people say, ‘I know I’m not supposed to throw it in the trash, but I didn’t know where else to put them,’” he says. “The last time we did a take-back event, we took in a little over 3,000 pounds of medications in just the sheriff’s department-sponsored areas; that’s not counting the whole county.”

To find a take-back bin near you, visit