California pharmacies don’t take back opioids, although FDA guidelines recommend that all pharmacies help their customers dispose of unused drugs properly. While many people are unaware that they can dispose of unused medications at pharmacies, sometimes the pharmacies don’t know procedures for disposal, either. It is doubtful that the problem is isolated to California alone. However, this is the only recent study on drug takebacks and pharmacies.

California’s Drug Takebacks Are Failing

Only 1 in 10 California pharmacies have programs to take back unused prescription opioids and just one in five give consumers accurate disposal information, according to new research on drug take-back programs.  Some of the pharmacies contacted during the study were supposed to have plans but were unaware of them.

Experts say this shows that drugstores could do more to help combat substance abuse.

When there isn’t a drug take-back program or it isn’t promoted correctly, people sometimes let the prescription sit in a drawer or a medicine cabinet.

80% of a recent survey of 1700 individuals conducted by Brightline Strategies found that 80% of respondents “always” or “sometimes” dispose of medications at home on their own. For them, this means flushing pills down a toilet into the water supply, which may present an ecological hazard.

 Drug Takeback Programs Need Wider Use

Pharmacies can play an essential role in fighting the opioid crisis by helping people get rid of medications they don’t need. It’s well-known that doctors overprescribe, and many people end up with leftover medications. Many teens and people addicted to drugs will find a way to get ahold of unfinished drugs and abuse them.

Pharmacies such as Walmart often have a takeback bin for customers to dispose of medications. CVS, for example, has a program that handles drug takebacks at boxes at different locations. These services often vary by location.

In the California study, researchers called 898 pharmacies in California asking about take-back programs. Only 10% of the drug stores offered takeback programs for leftover opioids and antibiotics. 20% were able to describe methods for safe home disposal accurately.

Take Back Methods for Unwanted Medication

There are many safe ways to dispose of medication, even if the local pharmacy doesn’t have a program. You can call your local police precinct first to find out if they have a takeback program. The DEA also has a directory of locations that can help.

If you have no choice but to throw away your medication, pour it out into a large, secured bag of cat litter, soil or diapers to limit the chances that a human or animal will get ahold of it and consume it. You can also advocate for a takeback program by writing a letter to your pharmacy store manager and local law enforcement programs.