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Reduce drug abuse, child poisonings caused by your medicine cabinet

November 10, 2016

Proposal would expand safe disposal of unwanted prescription medicines

Residents encouraged to give feedback on proposal. Comment period ends Nov. 14.

TACOMA, Wash. – The home medicine cabinet is a common destination for anyone looking to get high. Unsecured drugs, like Vicodin and Percocet, can be life-threatening poisons for curious children or the beginning of an addiction problem. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department wants to reduce these dangers to public health by expanding options for safe disposal of unused and unwanted medicines.

The Health Department wants your feedback on a proposed medicine return regulation. From now until Nov. 14 at 4:30 p.m., you can submit comments by email and regular mail. Address your comments to Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH at:


  • 3629 S. D St., Tacoma, WA 98418

Safer Medicine Cabinets Mean Safer Communities

Pierce County has 21 drop box locations where residents can get rid of most unwanted or unused prescription and non-prescription medicine. To give residents greater convenience, the Health Department wants to:

  • Expand drop box locations to more places such as pharmacies, hospitals, and police stations.
  • Add an option for some residents to send unused medicine by mail to a disposal site for free.
  • Use funding from the pharmaceutical industry to run the program.

How Medicine Becomes Dangerous

Reducing access to unused and unwanted medicines could help curb the opioid epidemic. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nationally more than 75% of heroin addicts were initially hooked on opioid medicines, like oxycodone. A majority of Pierce County heroin users surveyed in 2015 said they were also hooked on opioid medicines at first, according to the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. They then turned to heroin, which is cheaper and more readily available, to achieve a similar high.

Medicine can become poison in the wrong hands. According to the Washington Poison Center, more than 1,500 children under 6 in Pierce County came into contact with or were poisoned by unused or unsecured medicines left in the home last year.

Learn more about the proposal at

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