Why Store Medications Safely?

In 2015, for every 100 Oklahomans, providers wrote 88.1 prescriptions. At a total 3.97 million opioid prescriptions written, that was more than the number of people in Oklahoma (3.90 million).

The average national rate of Opioid prescriptions declined in 2017 is 58.7 prescriptions per 100 people (IMS Health, 2016). This means there are hundreds of millions of opioid painkillers in Oklahoma homes. For a number of reasons, most of them may not be stored safely.

It may be convenient to store medication for easy access, but that same access could make it simple for others to find them, turning you into an accidental drug dealer.

Source: NIDA

HARD TRUTH: 53.1% of those 12 years and older who misused prescription pain relivers got the pills from friends or family.

Get a Free Lock Box and Safe Disposal Pouches

The Community Action Network (CAN) is providing FREE medication safes and safe disposal pouches to residents within CAN’s coverage area. Use the menu below to find out if your county is part of the CAN coverage area. Pick up locations vary by county so be sure to confirm your counties pick up location as well.

*Offer is valid while supplies last. Limit one lockbox per household.

How to Store Medications Safely

Safely storing medication is an easy and effective way to prevent others from taking your medication. There are many types and sizes of medication lockboxes available with varying features.

Why dispose of Medication Safely?

medicine cabinet

Why dispose of Medication Safely?

In 2017, there were 4.1 million opiod prescriptions dispensed in Oklahoma. The same year there were 388 fatal overdoses involving opioids and 613 fatal car crashes involving opiods. Opioid overdose deaths no longer exceed fatal car crashes in Oklahoma according to 2017 rates.

Leftover medications pose a preventable risk to people who possess them, their loved ones and their environment. Patients may offer personal or financial reasons for retaining their leftover medication, or rely on common myths to guide their disposal methods. You may have heard confusing advice about what to do with leftover medicines. Some believe drugs should be flushed down the toilet, or thrown in the trash, or mixed with kitty litter or coffee grounds, but these “experts” are not telling the full story.

Community Action Network recommends Oklahoma residents think SMART when it comes to safe disposal and if possible, avoid the following common disposal myths.

HARD TRUTH: Easy access = increased use and increased consequences.

Forget the Flush!

toilet with pills


It’s okay to flush my medicines in the toilet or pour them down the drain, because the FDA encourages it for dangerous medications and it is not harmful to the environment.


Leftover medicines that are flushed or poured down the drain can end up polluting Oklahoma’s water, impacting aquatic species and contaminating our soil, which then affects our food and water supplies. Because disposed medicines create a chemical solution in the waste water that can be next to impossible to filter out, Oklahoma’s rich water resources become laced with chemicals that can lead to dangerous health conditions in young children and adults. Using a medicine take-back program is a simple, sensible way to reduce the amount of medicines entering the environment.

Trash Talk

sweeping pills


Mixing medicines with coffee grounds or kitty litter before throwing them in the trash will prevent drug theft.


Throwing medicines in the trash is not the SMARTest method – especially for controlled substances like hydrocodone, oxycodone or other narcotics, and sedatives. These prescription drugs can be found and taken by other people, even if they are mixed with things to make them unappealing. The FDA, DEA, and EPA, recommend using medicine take-back programs as the best way to dispose of your unwanted medicines. These agencies advise trash disposal ONLY as a “last resort” option until all our communities have convenient take-back programs.

“Unused prescription drugs thrown in the trash can be retrieved and abused or illegally sold…Take-back programs are the best way to dispose of old drugs.“

Source: DEA, April 30, 2011


It’s okay to crush medicines before throwing in the trash so curious children don’t mistake them for candy.


Crushing pills to disguise them before disposal is challenging and hazardous and puts the handler at risk of exposure to the drug through skin contact or inhalation of dust particles. Many medications are intended to be released in the body over time, and crushing pills can release a dangerously high dose. Also, throwing unwanted medicines in the household trash does not ensure that curious kids cannot find them; there’s an epidemic of unintentional poisonings from medicines in our homes, and children are the most common victims. Also, pets and animals are not discouraged by kitty litter or other substances when getting into the trash. Human medications are the leading cause of pet poisonings, most often from trash-related toxic exposures.

Safe Solutions

Community Action Network recommends meeting today’s challenges with safe solutions.


Products like Deterra pouches make the active ingredients in medications inactive, so there is no potential for abuse if found in the trash.

If you have prescription opioids in your home, think SMART. Get a disposal pouch to protect Oklahoma’s water and your loved ones today!

Take-Back Programs

Not all law enforcement agencies or pharmacies are able to fund a take-back program, but numerous communities across Oklahoma have them and periodically take advantage of prescription drug take-back events.

Northeast Oklahoma residents are encouraged to clean out their medicine cabinets and deliver their expired, leftover, or unwanted pills to a take-back event where they can be assured of SMART disposal.

Many communities also offer 24-hour permanent medication drop box locations. These are free and anonymous.

If you live within the Community Action Network, find a drop box location near you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Some communities in Oklahoma may not have access to a drug take-back program. If you do not have a take-back location within reasonable driving distance, please follow these last resort instructions.

For all other Prescription Drugs:
  1. Do not flush medicines down the toilet or drain.
  2. Keep the medication in its original container.
  3. To discourage consumption, add something very unappealing, such as used kitty litter or coffee grounds or rotten food. Do not crush the pills.
  4. Tape the container lid shut with tape, place in a sealable bag, and then place in a non-transparent container to ensure that the contents cannot be seen.
  5. Discard the container in the trash. Do not place in the recycling bin. Make sure your trash cannot be accessed by children, pets, or others who might be looking in the garbage for drugs or food. And please remember that trash disposal does not adequately protect people and our environment from exposure to potentially dangerous drugs.

The collected medicines are disposed by high temperature incineration at a secure permitted facility. This is the most environmentally sound disposal method which ensures the chemicals are completely destroyed.

Used needles, injectors, EpiPens, lancets, or other objects capable of puncturing skin may be capable of transmitting disease. Some cities have special regulations for transportation and disposal of these “biohazardous” or “biomedical” wastes.

For safe disposal of needles and syringes, ask your pharmacist, contact your local health department or your local waste collection and management agency.

For chemotherapy drugs and certain liquid controlled medications, contact your prescribing medical office to see if they will accept the drugs for proper disposal.