Putting medicine in its (right) place

Sheriff Lt. John Sprague empties a
Sheriff Lt. John Sprague empties a 'take-back' bin at the sheriff's office. Residents are invited to bring back expired and unused medications instead of flushing the medication.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Before flushing a pill or liquid medicine in the toilet, think again.

Officials at the Kitsap Public Health District and Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office want to remind residents of a permanent “take back” program designed for proper disposal of medications. The receptacle boxes are located in the lobbies of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Offices in the Port Orchard and Silverdale locations.

The goal is to have a safe, legal and environmentally friendly alternative to disposing of prescription medications. While waterways are a point of concern for the health district, so is the chance of overdose and poisoning.

“The thing that we mostly support about it in public health is that we’re trying to get these things out of medicine cabinets because they’re very widely abused,” said Scott Daniels, Kitsap Public Health District deputy director. “Poisoning, suicide — those kind of things. We’re trying to get them out of medicine cabinets.”

According to the Washington State Department of Health Vital Statistics as analyzed by the Kitsap Public Health District, drug-associated deaths are a problem in Kitsap County. From 2009 through 2011, one in 10 people intentionally poisoned themselves. Six out of 10 people died of drug-associated death due to unintended poisoning. The drug-associated death rate is 16 per 100,000 residents, according to a May 2013 Kitsap County Core Public Health Indicator report.

Prior to the installation of the bins earlier this year, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration hosted twice-yearly drug take-back events. Now, items can be returned five days a week. Medications accepted at the sheriff’s office include prescription medications, ointments and patches, over-the-counter medications, sample prescription medications, vitamins and medications for pets.

“The sheriff’s office is the conduit where unwanted medications are dropped off. The drop off bins are periodically checked during the week by two sheriff’s officers,” said Deputy Scott Wilson, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer.

“If a disposal bin is full, or close to becoming full, the bin is emptied and the medications weighed. The medications are then sealed in a container and entered into the sheriff’s property/evidence system until they are destroyed. Dropped off medications are subsequently destroyed by incineration at designated locations for this purpose.”

The incinerators are located in Tacoma and eastern Washington State and are taken from evidence when there’s enough of a collection, he said.

Recent health advisories were issued for Dyes Inlet and Port Washington Narrows due to the discharge of 890,000 gallons of fully treated mix of sewage and storm water from an East Bremerton treatment plant. Although easy to test for sewage discharge, compounds like chemicals from medications are not easily detected, Daniels said.

“These materials pass right through wastewater treatment plants,” he said of medication waste. There is also no testing of chemicals from medications in the water in Kitsap County, the deputy director said.

“Once it’s there, it’s there,” he said.

Once the medicine enters waterways by someone flushing it or dumping it down the sink, it also can get into drinking water, he said. Currently, a study is being conducted by University of Washington Tacoma on human pollution versus pet and wildlife pollution in local waterways.

However, most of the drug residue left in the water systems is from people who take the medications and then naturally pass them through their bodies, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website in an article on medication disposal.

Federal guidelines advise following instructions on the label of medications. If a take-back program is not available, the FDA advises mix medicines with an “unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds,” uncrushed. The mixture should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and thrown in with household trash. All identifying personal information should be removed from the prescription label.

For medications that may be flushed, the FDA claims it is better to have it flushed than be in the reach of a pet or child or anyone else who may accidentally take the medication.

“Some of the possible harmful effects include breathing difficulties or heart problems, which could lead to death. For these reasons, FDA recommends that when it isn’t possible to return these medicines through a medicine take-back program, flushing them down the sink or toilet is the best way for you to immediately and permanently remove this risk from the home,” states the FDA website.

A few of the medications the FDA recommends flushing include Abstral, Actiq, Avinza, Femerol, Oxycodone Hydrochloride (capsules and oral solution), Oxycontin (extended release) and  Percocet, among others.

For a full list of flushable medications, visit for a printable list. Local laws and ordinances should be consulted prior to medication disposal via flushing.




Take-Back locations:



Group Health

10452 Silverdale Way NW



*Does not accept controlled substances


Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office

3951 Randall Way NW




614 Division Street

Port Orchard


*Will accept controlled substances.






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