Prescription/OTC Drug Drop Off

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the problem with unwanted, expired, or unused medicine?

  • Unwanted, expired and unused medicine in the home poses safety and health threats.
  • Storage of medicine can lead to abuse or poisoning. Poisoning is the second leading cause of accidental death in Minnesota.
  • The non-medical use of prescription drugs ranks second only to marijuana as the most common form of drug abuse in America. Prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as street drugs when taken without a prescription or a doctor’s supervision.
  • Medicines flushed down the drain or disposed of in the trash can contaminate bodies of water, harm wildlife and end up in our drinking water supply.

What about prescription drug abuse?

  • Prescription drugs are easy to get, and most painkiller abusers reported getting them from friends or relatives, often for free. According to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) ¾ of people age 45 or older take an average of four prescription medications daily.
  • Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem, especially among teens. Most teens get prescription drugs from family members and friends, including the home medicine cabinet.
  • Pain relievers used for recreation are the second most commonly used drug in the U.S.
  • Though overall teen drug use is down nationwide, more teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana – more than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined.
  • Prescription drugs provide many benefits when used correctly under a doctor’s care. But when abused they can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs, especially when taken with alcohol or other drugs.

What is the overall concern about the impact on our environment?

  • Studies have shown that pharmaceuticals are present in our nation’s lakes and streams and that certain drugs may cause ecological harm. Scientists are uncertain of human health effects from a pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) in the environment.
  • The risks are uncertain because they have not yet been well studied.

Where can I learn more about pharmaceuticals and the environment?

Why can’t I just flush what I don’t need or put them in the trash?

  • Do NOT pour or flush medicine down the sink or toilet. Research shows this can pollute the groundwater and be harmful to fish and wildlife. Municipal sewage treatment plants are not equipped for pharmaceutical and person care product (PPCP) removal. Currently, there are no municipal sewage treatment plants that are engineered specifically for PPCP removal or for other unregulated contaminants. Effective removal of PPCPs from treatment plants varies based on the type of chemical and on the individual sewage treatment facilities.
  • Medicines that are placed in the trash and that are dumped into landfills can still be released to water, either from landfills that leach into groundwater, or when the leachate that is collected from landfills is treated in a sewage treatment plant.

What drugs are most often abused?

  • More than seven million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs, according to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Each day, approximately 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America.
  • If unused or unwanted, remove these drugs from your home because they are most often abused:
    - Painkillers: Vicodin, Tylenol with codeine, OxyContin, Percoset
    - Depressants: Xanax, Valium, Nembutal
    - Stimulants: Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta

When are the drop boxes available?

  • During regular business hours in the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office

Where is the drop box located?

Yellow Medicine County Sheriff’s Office
415 9th Avenue, Suite 103
Granite Falls, MN 56241

What unwanted, unused or expired household medicines are accepted?

Medicine from households is accepted in any form, including prescription, over-the-counter and pet medicines. Examples include:

  • Blister packs
  • Capsules and pills
  • Creams and gels Inhalers
  • Liquids, Patches
  • Powders
  • Sprays, Tablets
  • Vials
  • EpiPens

Can I bring in medicine for my relative?

  • Yes, you may bring in medicine for a relative if that person is not able to bring in the medicine him/herself.

Can I bring in medicine that the nursing home gave to me when my relative died?

  • Yes

Can I dispose of pet medicine?

  • YES, your pet’s medicine but not medicines from a vet clinic.

Can I dispose of over-the-counter medicine, herbal supplements or vitamins?

  • YES.

Can I dispose of medicated patches?

  • YES.

Can I dispose of inhalers?

  • YES.

Can I bring my used needles and syringes?

  • NO, needles and syringes are not accepted in the drop boxes.

Can I bring my tubing and catheters?

  • NO, these are not allowed. If they don’t have a needle attached, they can be placed in the trash.

What is NOT accepted?

  • NO needles, sharps (except unopened EpiPens) or fever thermometers.
  • NO medicines from businesses, including health care facilities, long-term-care facilities, pharmacies, doctor’s offices and veterinary clinics.

Is there any paperwork to fill out?

  • NO, you do not need to fill out any paperwork

Will I have to show an ID?

  • NO, drop-off is safe and anonymous. No ID is required and no questions will be asked.

How should I bring the medicines?

  • Keep medicines in their original container and place them in a sealed, clear plastic bag (pills can remain in their blister packs).
  • Use a marker to cross out your name on medicine containers.
  • Place medicine that is no longer in its original container in a clear plastic bag and write the name of the medicine on the bag.

What happens to the medicines after I drop them off?

  • The medicines are placed in special containers and securely stored by the law enforcement agency. When enough medicines have been collected, they are taken under law enforcement escort to a waste-to-energy facility in Minnesota that is licensed to burn this type of waste. The medicines are then destroyed.

Is the disposal method environmentally safe?

  • Incineration is environmentally safer than other disposal methods, such as flushing or placing in a landfill. The process is highly regulated by the State of Minnesota and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

How do I properly dispose of empty pill bottles?

  • Some empty pill bottles can be recycled. Plastic bottles labeled with#1 or #2 on the bottom are collected with curbside recycling programs. Remove the prescription label before recycling. Contact your recycling service provider, building manager or city recycling coordinator for more information.
  • Empty pill bottles that are not recyclable may be placed in the trash. Remove or black out the prescription label.

Who is paying for this service?

  • The program is a partnership between the Sheriff’s Office, Chemical Health Coalition of Yellow Medicine County, and Countryside Public Health.

Why aren’t the drug companies paying for this?

  • At this time, there are no laws requiring drug companies to pay for disposal of unwanted medicines, nor are there any voluntary programs. Some pharmacies have set up programs with third parties where customers can purchase a pre-paid envelope and mail unwanted drugs, not including controlled substances, to a disposal facility.
  • For now, local governments in Minnesota are taking the initiative to pay for the proper disposal of unwanted and unused medicines.

Will you be collecting information about me when I return my medicine?

  • NO. Yellow Medicine County staff will not collect any personal information about you from the medicine bottles that are disposed, nor will you be asked to show identification or fill out any forms.
  • If possible, mark out personal information from the labels on your medicine bottle using a permanent marker.