Properly Dispose of Unused Medications During National Prescription Drug Takeback Day

An image of two children drinking water to illustrate the importance of source water protection for National Prescription Drug Takeback Day.

Do you have unused or unneeded medications in your home?

If you’re considering flushing them down the toilet, please DON’T!

Instead, dispose of them safely, at no charge, during the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s 20th National Prescription Drug Takeback Day on Saturday, Oct. 23 at sites across the greater Lehigh Valley. A nationwide total of 420 tons of medication was collected during an earlier take-back event in April this year.

Flushing pharmaceuticals leads to source water contamination, because wastewater treatment plants were not designed to remove these compounds. Scientists have found an alarming range of drugs in source water — and it’s even affecting the behavior of fish.

Keep Them Safe, Clean Them Out, Take Them Back!

But throwing medications in the trash or leaving them in the medicine chest is also problematic, because it can lead to unintentional use, overdose, and abuse. Studies show most teens who misused prescription drugs got them from family, friends, or found them at home. And the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2019, at least 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers; 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants; and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives.

By disposing of prescription medications properly, you’re keeping your loved ones safe and helping to #protecthesource of our drinking water, too — it’s a win-win!

To find a disposal site near you, check out the DEA’s Take Back Day Site Locator.

Can’t make it on Saturday? No worries. In Lehigh County, there are 23 permanent locations where you can safely drop off unused medications through The Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Take-Back Program. Each location has a secure prescription drug take-back box installed— you can view a map of them here.

If you’re outside the county, just go to the state’s Drug Take Back Locations page and search by zip code or county. Pharmacies often have a take-back program as well — contact yours for more information.

No matter how or when you dispose of your medications, here’s how to use the take-back boxes — and what they can be used for:

How to Prepare Items for Disposal

  • All pharmaceutical drugs to be disposed of must be placed in a sealed container such as the original bottle or zip-lock bag
  • Liquid pharmaceuticals should remain in the original container
  • Personal information should be removed or marked out with a permanent marker


  • Prescription and over-the-counter solid medications
  • Tablets and capsules
  • Pet medicines 


  • Intravenous solutions
  • Injectables, syringes, and needles (i.e., EpiPens)*; these need to be taken to a health care professional’s office or to a hospital for disposal
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Compressed cylinders or aerosols (e.g., asthma inhalers)
  • Iodine-containing medications
  • Thermometers
  •  Alcohol & Schedule 1 drugs (i.e., marijuana, heroin, LSD, etc.)