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Safely Dispose of Your Unwanted Medications

Prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing drug problems in the United States.  When taken as directed for valid medical purposes, prescription drugs can be safe and effective. However, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 7 million people used prescription drugs non medically in 2009 and 2010.4  Additionally, their misuse has the potential to be as deadly as illegal drugs.1 Since 2003, more unintentional overdose deaths have involved opioids than that of cocaine and heroin combined.Although prescription drug abuse is a national epidemic, both Pennsylvania and Erie County emulate these trends.

In 2012, prescription drugs were a contributing factor in 36% of all accidental deaths in Erie County.3  Proper disposal of prescription medications has recently received heightened national and local attention as an effort to decrease the abuse of prescription drugs and prevent overdose deaths. Surprisingly, 70% of individuals that abused prescription pain relievers obtained them from friends or relatives.4  Simply put, medications stored in the home increases the risk of diversion and abuse.

To assist with the concern of medication disposal, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) offers the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day twice a year, which provides a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing prescription drugs, while also educating the public about the potential for abuse of medications.  Locally, in order to make medication disposal more accessible to the public on a regular basis, the Erie County Department of Health has provided local law enforcement officials MedReturn Drug Collection Units.  Over the past year, the LECOM School of Pharmacy has collaborated with the Erie County Department of Health and the Erie office of the PA Attorney General’s office to audit the medications collected using the MedReturn units.

Offering MedReturn units as an alternative for disposal has proven to be a very successful public health initiative in Erie County.  In one year, six MedReturn units collected and removed from circulation over 40,000 units of unused or expired drugs that had the potential for abuse.  Encouraging patients and the community to continue to dispose of unused medications from the home, either at DEA Drug Take-Back Days or local MedReturn units, can continue to impact prescription drug abuse.

[table type=”table-striped”]
Locations in Northwest Pennsylvania Accepted Medication Not Accepted Medication
  • Albion Police Department
  • Erie County Courthouse
  • Girard Borough Police Department
  • Corry City Police Department
  • Edinboro Borough Police Department
  • Lake City Police Department
  • Lawrence Park Township Police Department
  • North East Police Department
  • Wesleyville Police Department
  • Mercyhurst University Main Campus Police
  • Mercyhurst University North East Campus Police
  • Prescription medications
  • Patches
  • Ointments
  • Over-The-Counter medications
  • Vitamins
  • Medication samples
  • Pet medications
  • Needles, Lancets, Syringes
  • Thermometers
  • Aerosol Cans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide/Alcohol
  • Inhalers
  • Bloody or infectious waste
  • Business or clinic waste
  • Medical devices
  • Personal care products
Please contact each location ahead of time as MedReturn units may only be available during normal business hours.


1.  Executive Office of the President. A Response to the Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse.  Office of National Drug Control Policy.  Accessed 23 Oct 2013.
2.  CDC Vitalsigns. PrescriptionDrug Overdoses – a U.S. Epidemic. Grand Rounds.  13 Jan 2012. Accessed 23 Oct 2013.
3.  “PHARMACEUTICAL THREAT ASSESSMENT: Pennsylvania and Delaware.” TS. Drug Enforcement Agency Philadelphia Division, Philadelphia.
4.  NABP. Latest SAMSHA Data Shows Prescription Drug Abuse Rates Still High, Meth Use is DownAccessed 23 Oct 2013 .