Prescription drug abuse is a growing concern in Iowa, due to the misuse of prescription painkillers (opioids), anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medicines, stimulants, and others medicines. When not used as directed, controlled substances can lead to behavioral disorders, addiction and even death. This is also true of heroin, increasingly used by some as a substitute for opioid pain medicine.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take in your home and community to help prevent prescription and opioid drug abuse. These include the following actions:
Properly Disposing of Controlled Prescription Drugs (“Take Back”)
By monitoring your medicines at home and disposing of them in a safe manner (not flushing, unless so directed by your pharmacist), you can prevent the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs and protect Iowa’s water supply.
You have three options to properly get rid of unneeded controlled prescription drugs (medicines with a known potential for abuse that require secure disposal), as outlined below.
1. “Take Back Kiosks” (BEST!):
Nearly 400 local law enforcement centers and community pharmacies have established permanent Take Back collection boxes, and the number of sites is growing. Please check with the host organization for hours of operation.
Iowa Year-Round Prescription Drug Take Back Sites - Click the map to find the site closest to you.
What items are accepted: Prescription medications, patches, ointments, medication for pets, and over-the-counter drugs should be accepted at most sites, but items like syringes and inhalers/aerosols are not accepted. For information on Sharps disposal, go to: https://www.iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/waste/sw_sharps.pdf
How to package items: Remove unwanted solid medications from their original containers, place them into clear, sealed plastic bags, and recycle the original container. If not possible, put unwanted solid waste in clear, sealed bags still in their original containers or simply leave the solid waste in tightly sealed in their original containers. All liquids should be in tightly sealed, secure containers, and those containers should preferably be in sealed, clear plastic bags. Contact your local Take Back host site for more information on accepted items and/or packaging.
2. “Take Back Events” (Better…but you may have to wait):
The next DEA Take Back event will be held April 30, 2022. Please visit DEA.gov for more information and updates on upcoming events.
Twice each year, on a Saturday in the Spring and Fall, law enforcement agencies team up with local pharmacies and other organizations in over 100 Iowa communities to sponsor a special one-day collection of unused medicines. Details typically are provided closer to the dates of these events, but general information is available at the DEA's Website.
Information for Hosting Law Enforcement and Pharmacies
DEA resources for Take Back host sites: https://takebackday.dea.gov/content/partnership-toolbox
DEA POC for law enforcement: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/poc.htm
Take Back Day registration for law enforcement: https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/webforms2/spring/disposalLogin
3. “Toss it in the Trash” (Good…as a last resort):
When better options are not practical, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends you carefully discard of medicines as follows: (1) follow patient instructions, but do not flush unless told to do so; (2) remove medicines from original containers and mix with used coffee grounds, dirt, kitty litter or another undesirable substance, place the mixture in a sealed bag or can to avoid leakage; and (3) place in the trash for regular collection.
Note: Some Iowa pharmacies offer customers an alternative method for discarding controlled prescription drugs, in the form of a postage-paid mail-back pouch. Customers may be required to purchase the mail-back pouch, where it is available. Also, many non-controlled prescription drugs (medicines with NO known abuse potential) may be returned to Iowa pharmacies participating in the Iowa Pharmacy Association’s “Take Away” program. This program features cardboard box receptacles in pharmacies and is separate from the more secure disposal options outlined above for controlled prescription drugs that may lead to abuse.
*When in doubt about the proper disposal of medicines, ask your pharmacist.
The Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy appreciates the support of many partners working together to prevent prescription drug abuse, including the: Iowa Alliance of Coalitions for Change; Iowa Department of Public Health; Iowa Department of Public Safety; Partnership for a Drug-Free Iowa; Iowa National Guard, Counterdrug Task Force; and U.S. Department of Justice.