Out with the old medicine

In response to reports of skyrocketing drug overdoses in Washington and nationwide, King County has launched an awareness campaign about its secure medicine-return program that is similar to other efforts across the state to stop misuse of medicine.

The county will publicize the locations of nine drop boxes where old or unused medicine can be deposited, as well as a phone number (1-800-633-7765) that any resident of the county can call to request a mail-back envelope for turning in items such as over-the-counter and prescription medicine in all forms, controlled substances, and pet medicine.

Earlier this year, the state Department of Health reported rising totals of overdose deaths in Washington in 2020. Contributing to a higher risk of drug misuse and overdose is the pandemic, which has made vulnerable populations more vulnerable, disrupted treatment and support systems, and left Washington residents isolated, according to the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA), the state-run purchaser of healthcare plans such as Apple Health (Medicaid).

HCA is involved in two programs to prevent opioid addiction and overdose:

  • The MED-Project, at pharmacies statewide, allows people to dispose their leftover prescription drugs at a kiosk or drop box. Residents can enter their ZIP code online at MED-Project.org to find a location near them or order a free medication mail-back envelope. MED-Project is managed by the Department of Health and is supported by the HCA.
  • Starting this October, an in partnership with dozens of pharmacies, HCA plans to give free locking bags to patients who receive opioid prescriptions. Patients will be asked to store their medication in the bags.

These programs can keep medication out of the hands of people who weren’t prescribed them, said Jessica Blose, an HCA manager.

“With a rapid rise in overdose deaths and increased substance use during the pandemic, there is no time to wait when it comes to removing unused prescription drugs from our medicine cabinets” and protecting people from overdoses, said King County Councilman Reagan Dunn.

More information about the county program is available at kingcountysecuremedicinereturn.org.