Scripps Health Launches Year-Round Drug Take-Back Kiosks

Free service offers safe, convenient way to dispose of prescription medications

Kiosk used to dispose drugs.

Free service offers safe, convenient way to dispose of prescription medications

Scripps Health has opened three drug take-back kiosks adjacent to its on-site pharmacies, becoming the first health care organization in the region to offer year-round access to a free service for disposing of unused, unneeded and outdated prescription medications.

Patients can now drop off their unneeded pills, capsules, tablets and caplets at secure kiosks conveniently located at Scripps Mercy Ambulatory Pharmacy, 4060 Fourth Ave., Suite 110; Green Ambulatory Pharmacy at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines, 10710 N. Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla; and Encinitas Ambulatory Pharmacy at Scripps Clinic Encinitas, 310 Santa Fe Drive, Suite 109, between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The Scripps drug take-back kiosks are part of the Scripps Opioid Stewardship Program, which aims to reduce the use of opioids and to help prevent patients from becoming dependent on these useful but potent pain reducing medications. If these drugs are used incorrectly, they increase the risks of addiction, overdose and death.

“This issue is of great importance to Scripps Health because many of the prescription drug overdose deaths that occur in the United States each year can be traced back to pill bottles left in home medicine cabinets,” said Ole Snyder, MD, physician chair of the Scripps Opioid Stewardship Program. “Drugs that remain unused following an injury or illness can pose a dangerous risk and temptation to others in the house, including visitors and workers.”

Scripps encourages patients to remove expired, unwanted and unused medicines from their homes as quickly as possible and to avoid throwing them into the trash or flushing them down the toilet because this unwittingly risks exposing others to the drugs and damages the environment.  

“The safest way to dispose of unused medications is by bringing them to a take-back location, but that’s not always easy,” Dr. Snyder said. “Scripps is changing that by making this service available year-round at no cost to the public at conveniently located sites which already are visited by patients.”

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in the United States. About 54 million people, or more than 20 percent of those aged 12 and older, have used prescription medications such as powerful pain-reducing opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetime, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Every day, 5,750 more Americans misuse prescription drugs for the first time. And 62 percent of teens who admit taking medications for non-medical reasons say they got those drugs from medicine cabinets in their homes.

Those actions can result in serious injuries, overdoses and even death, sending more than 1 million people to emergency rooms in a single year, according to one report, and running up costly medical bills.

Using the new Scripps drug take-back kiosks is easy. Just visit one of the three designated sites, locate the kiosk in the pharmacy area of each site, and drop medicine containers in the clearly marked green bin. Scripps works with a contractor to safely dispose of the discarded drugs at an off-site waste facility.

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Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.

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Keith Darce

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