San Diegans Encouraged to Get Rid of Painkillers, Other Rx Drugs

prescription pills

San Diegans will once again have an opportunity to get rid of unused or unwanted medications during the Drug Enforcement Administration’s spring Prescription Drug Take Back Day April 27.

On Thursday, County officials and representatives from the DEA, the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement agencies gathered outside the County Administration Center to encourage people to help prevent overdoses and deaths by safely disposing of their prescription drugs, especially painkillers.

The Take Back Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 27. San Diegans can dispose of their medications anonymously, and there’s no charge. Call (800) 882-9539 or go to for a location near you.

“Prevention through education and action gets the best results,” said Supervisor Kristin Gaspar. “All of us have an opportunity to save a life today.”

There will be more than 40 locations around the county for the event to drop off unused and unneeded medications. No sharps or needles accepted. Unwanted or expired prescription drugs can be dangerous to the community by falling into the wrong hands.

“A big part of the success of Take Back Day has happened here where San Diegans have participated with increasing response,” said Colin Ruane, assistant special agent in charge for the San Diego division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a way for law enforcement agencies to addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue. One Saturday last October, at over 5,800 locations around the country, almost a million pounds of unused and unneeded medications were collected. Since the DEA began the twice-a-year National Take Back Days, almost 11 million pounds—nearly 5,500 tons—of unused medication have been properly disposed.

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 6 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from their home’s medicine cabinet.

“We must stay alert against the precursors to drug misuse and abuse because these people are our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbors,” said Assistant Sheriff Kelly Martinez.

County Deputy District Attorney Terri Perez added that “We have a huge problem with young people believing that prescription drugs are safe.”

In 2017, a total of 273 San Diegans died from prescription drugs. More than 7,000 ended up at local emergency room in 2016, the most recent data available shows.

“Many of those who have become addicted, and many who have died from overdose are first exposed to powerful opioids from home medicine cabinets,” said Luke Bergmann, director of Behavioral Health Services for the County Health and Human Services Agency. “They then move on to other substances, including heroin when their home supplies run dry. We encourage people to safely dispose of their unused pharmaceuticals. We also encourage people who are misusing medications to talk honestly to their physicians, and to seek treatment. Drug treatment is available in San Diego County and it works.”

If you can’t participate in Prescription Drug Take Back Day, you can always drop off unwanted prescriptions at any Sheriff’s station or substation during normal business hours.

Drug treatment is a component of Live Well San Diego, the County’s vision for healthy, safe and thriving residents and communities. To speak with a trained counselor, call the County’s Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact