Opioid crisis magnifies importance of getting old drugs out of medicine cabinets

Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, and this year it’s happening during a surge in opioid deaths.

Disposing of old prescription drugs is all the more important because they have been linked to the use of heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that “a study of young, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86 percent had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically prior to using heroin, and their initiation into nonmedical use was characterized by three main sources of opioids: family, friends, or personal prescriptions.”

In D.C., for example, the city has lost 243 people this year to fatal opioid overdoses as of Oct. 18. That compares to 173 homicides in the city as of Oct. 21. Year-over-year, 93 people in the city died of opioid overdoses in the first quarter of 2020 compared to 100 opioid overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2021.

Nationwide, drug overdoses have likely already surpassed 100,000 this year in America — a nearly 30% increase over the previous year — according to new analysis by Drug Helpline.

After smoking pot, the second-most common form of drug abuse in America is nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

Since its inception more than a decade ago, Drug Take Back Day has removed more than 7,000 tons of medication from circulation.

For people who are interested, but unable to participate in Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, there are permanent lockboxes for old medications  regionwide at some police stations, hospitals and drugstores.

You can find those lockbox locations and participating Drug Take Back Day sites by ZIP code on the Drug Enforcement Administration website.

“Over the pandemic we have seen a sharp increase in overdose deaths, and the path to opioid abuse can begin in the home with unused prescription drugs,” said U.S. Attorney for Maryland Erek L. Barron in a news release. “Proper disposal of unused and unneeded prescription drugs will help prevent drug abuse and opioid addiction.”

Drug Take Back Day is free and anonymous; no questions asked. But participants should know what will and won’t be collected.

Not welcome, according to the new release, are liquids, including intravenous solutions, syringes and other sharps items, as well as illegal drugs.

Items that will be collected include tablets, capsules, patches and other solid forms, as well as vape pens or other e-cigarette devices but only after the batteries are removed from the devices.

“If the battery cannot be removed, individual consumers can check with large electronic chain stores who may accept the vape pen or e-cigarette devices for proper disposal,” the release states.

According to D.C. police, over 800,000 pounds of pharmaceuticals were surrendered in April 2021, during another national push for people to turnover unused prescription drugs.

For tips on safely disposing of drugs at home, people can find advice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Below are some drop-off sites in the D.C. area for Drug Take Back Day, which takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For a complete list by zip code, click here.


  • Howard University College of Pharmacy: 2300 4th St. in Northwest
  • Medstar National Rehabilitation Hospital: 102 Irving St. in Northwest
  • Sibley Memorial: 5215 Loughboro Road in Northwest
  • Washington Metropolitan Police Department 1st District: 101 M St. in Southwest
  • Washington Metropolitan Police Department 2nd District: 3320 Idaho Ave. in Northwest
  • Washington Metropolitan Police Department 3rd District: 1620 V St. in Northwest
  • Washington Metropolitan Police Department 4th District: 6001 Georgia Ave. in Northwest
  • Washington Metropolitan Police Department 5th District: 1805 Bladensburg Road in Northeast
  • Washington Metropolitan Police Department 6th District: 5002 Hayes St. in Northeast
  • Washington Metropolitan Police Department 7th District: 2455 Alabama Ave. in Southeast


All 23 Maryland State Police barracks. For a list of locations, click here.

Anne Arundel County:

  • Naval Support Activity Security Department: 695 Kinkaid Road in Annapolis

Howard County:

  • Gary Arthur Community Center: 2400 Rt. 97 in Cooksville
  • HC DrugFree: 10451 Twin Rivers Road in Columbia
  • Howard County General Hospital: 5755 Cedar Lane in Columbia
  • Howard County Police District 1 Station: 3410 Courthouse Drive in Ellicott City
  • Howard County Police District 2 Station: 11226 Scaggsville Road in Laurel

Montgomery County:

  • Churchill Senior Living: 21000 Father Hurley Blvd. in Germantown
  • Gaithersburg Police Department: 14 Fulks Corner Ave. in Gaithersburg
  • Jewish Community Center: 6125 Montrose Road in Rockville
  • Leisure World: 3305 N Leisure World Blvd. in Silver Spring
  • Montgomery County 1st District Police Station: 100 Edison Park Drive in Gaithersburg
  • Montgomery County 2nd District Police Station: 4823 Rugby Ave. in Bethesda
  • Montgomery County 3rd District Police Station: 811 George Ave. in Silver Spring
  • Montgomery County 4th District Police Station: 2300 Randolph Road in Silver Spring
  • Montgomery County 5th District Police Station: 2000 Aircraft Road in Germantown
  • Montgomery County 6th District Police Station: 45 W Watkins Mill Road in Gaithersburg
  • Rockville City Police Department: 2 W Montgomery Ave. in Rockville
  • Suburban Hospital: 8600 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda

Prince George’s County:

  • Hyattsville City Police: 4310 Gallatin St. in Hyattsville
  • Laurel Police Department: 811 5th St. in Laurel
  • Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles: 6601 Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie
  • Prince George’s County Police District 1 Station: 5000 Rhode Island Ave. in Hyattsville
  • Prince George’s County Police District 2 Station: 601 Crain Highway in Upper Marlboro
  • Prince George’s County Police District 3 Station: 7600 Barlowe Road in Palmer Park
  • Prince George’s County Police District 4 Station: 5135 Indian Head Highway in Oxon Hill
  • Prince George’s County Police District 5 Station: 6707 Groveton Drive in Clinton
  • Prince George’s County Police District 6 Station: 4321 Sellman Road in Beltsville
  • Prince George’s County Police District 7 Station: 11108 Fort Washington Road in Fort Washington
  • Rite-Aid:
    • 5741 Silver Hill Road in District Heights
    • 6130 Baltimore Ave. in Riverdale
  • University of Maryland Police Department: 7569 Baltimore Ave. in College Park
  • University Park Police Department: 6724 Baltimore Ave. in Hyattsville
  • Walgreens:
    • 9810 Apollo Drive in Largo
    • 9530 Crain Highway in Upper Marlboro
    • 15990 Annapolis Road in Bowie
    • 6498 Landover Road in Hyattsville
    • 7008 Marlboro Pike in District Heights
    • 9001 Woody Terrace in Clinton


City of Alexandria:

  • Alexandria Fire Station 210: 5255 Eisenhower Ave. in Alexandria
  • City of Alexandria Police Department: 3600 Wheeler Ave. in Alexandria
  • First Baptist Church of Alexandria: 2932 King St. in Alexandria
  • The Neighborhood Pharmacy: 2204 Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria

City of Falls Church:

  • Falls Church City Hall: 300 Park Ave. in Falls Church


  • Arlington County Fire Station #5: 1750 S. Hayes St. in Arlington
  • Arlington County Police Department: 1425 North Courthouse Road in Arlington
  • DEA Headquarters: 700 Army Navy Drive in Arlington

Fairfax County:

  • City of Fairfax Police: 3730 Old Lee Highway in Fairfax
  • Fair Oaks District Police Station: 12300 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway in Fairfax
  • Franconia District Police Station: 6121 Franconia Road in Franconia
  • Mason District Police Station: 6501 Columbia Pike in Annandale
  • Mount Vernon District Police Station: 2511 Parkers Lane in Alexandria
  • Reston Hospital Center: 1850 Town Center Parkway in Reston
  • Sully District Police Station: 4900 Stonecroft Blvd. in Chantilly
  • Vienna Police Department: 301 Center St. S in Vienna
  • Virginia State Police Division 7 Office: 4977 Alliance Drive in Fairfax

Loudoun County:

  • Leesburg Police Department: 65 Plaza Street NE in Leesburg
  • Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office:
    • 20272 Savin Hill Drive in Ashburn
    • 46620 E Frederick Drive in Sterling
    • 25215 Loudoun County Parkway in Chantilly
  • Purcellville Police Department: 125 E Hirst Road #7A in Purcellville

Prince William County:

  • Montclair Shopping Center: 5783 Waterway Drive in Dumfries
  • Novant Health – Prince William Medical Center: 8700 Sudley Road in Manassas
  • Novant Health – UVA Health Center: 15225 Heathcote Blvd. in Haymarket
  • Sentara Lake Ridge: 12825 Minnieville Road in Woodbridge

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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