Anonymous and no questions asked: Utah taking back unused, expired drugs as part of national effort

ST. GEORGE — National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day returns Saturday in Washington and Iron counties, providing a safe and anonymous way for people to dispose of unused and outdated medication.

Washington County participates in National Drug Take-Back Day, St. George, Utah, Sept. 27, 2014 | File photo by Brett Barrett, St. George News

Held in April and October each year, the Take-Back Day is meant to educate the public on the proper ways to dispose of old medications while also helping get rid of drugs that could potentially be abused or stolen.

In St. George, local law enforcement officers will gather in the Smith’s Supermarket parking lot on Bluff Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday to collect the old medications with no questions asked. In Cedar City, an event will also be held at Smith’s at 633 S. Main St. during the same time.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which created the national take-back day, nearly 10 million Americans misused prescription drugs in 2018. The DEA also states that the majority of abused prescription medications come from a family or friend’s medicine cabinet.

“One of the issues society is dealing with is that a lot of our homes – in our medicine cabinets – we end up with a lot of outdated medication,” Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said during a Washington County Commission meeting earlier this month. “Part of the issue is people wonder what to do with them (the medications).”

Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher (right) addressing the Washington County Commission, St. George, Utah, Oct. 15, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News

Last April, according to the Office on National Drug Control Policy, the public turned in 469 tons (937,443 pounds) of prescription drugs at more than 6,258 sites operated by the DEA and its 4,969 state, local and tribal partners.

The Washington County Commission passed a resolution Oct. 15 recognizing Take-Back Day while highlighting the need to properly dispose of the old and unused drugs, which officials say should neither be simply thrown away or flushed down the toilet.

There are four critically important medication safety principles:

  • Only use prescription medications as directed by a health professional.
  • Never share your prescription medications with others or use someone else’s prescription medications.
  • Always store your medications securely to prevent others from taking them, and properly dispose of medications that you no longer need. If no disposal instructions are given on the drug label and no take-back program is available in your area, take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter to make the medication less appealing and unrecognizable, then put them in a sealable bag, empty can or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  • Be a good example to those around you by modeling these safe medication-taking practices and discussing the dangers of misusing prescription drugs with your family, friends, colleagues, students or patients.

In addition to Saturday’s event, drop boxes for old and unused medications are available at area law enforcement agencies, like the Sheriff’s Office and St. George Police Department, and some local pharmacies year-round in both Washington and Iron counties, including the following:

  • Watson Dixie Pharmacy, St. George.
  • Fusion Pharmacy, Santa Clara.
  • Stapley Pharmacy in St. George and Enterprise.
  • St. George, Hurricane and Washington City police departments.
  • Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Dixie State University Police.
  • Township Pharmacy, Cedar City.
  • Parowan Pharmacy, Parowan.
  • Cedar City Police Department.
  • Iron County Sheriffs Department.

Other collection sites in Utah can be found through

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