Woman Emptying Pills into Her Hand

At-home Drug Deactivation Helps Make Every Day Take Back Day 

Extend the reach of medication disposal efforts with Deterra 

By: William F. Alden, DEA Educational Foundation Chairman, and Steve Murphy, retired DEA Special Agent  

The DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is just around the corner on April 30. This biannual event is an important opportunity for communities to safely dispose of unused medications. It’s also a chance for local organizations to raise awareness about the role of proper disposal in preventing the misuse of potentially harmful medications.

To complement these in-person events, handing out at-home tools like the Deterra® Drug Deactivation and Disposal System is a cost-effective way to extend the reach of critical prevention efforts and encourage everyone to properly dispose of unneeded medications promptly so they cannot be misused, diverted or cause environmental harm.

Raising awareness about effective at-home drug deactivation and disposal has become increasingly pertinent given the significant increase in deadly drug overdoses in the U.S. in recent years. Drug overdose deaths topped 100,000 fatalities from September 2020-September 2021, the highest number ever recorded in the U.S. in a 12-month period.

At the same time, we know that there is a similar rise in non-fatal overdoses. Although it is impossible to know the true number of non-fatal overdoses, it’s clear that for every drug overdose death, there are many more nonfatal overdoses.

With this upward trend in overdose deaths and the reality that most misused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends (including the home medicine cabinet), it’s vital that we get critical prevention tools into our communities to help prevent drug misuse before it starts.

Combatting Rising Overdoses with Proper Drug Disposal 

Handing out Deterra at take-back events and making it available for individuals who cannot travel to drop-off sites is a simple way to increase access to safe medication disposal in our communities. Deterra is proven is permanently destroy drugs and is the only product endorsed by the DEA Educational Foundation and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) for the proper disposal of unused medications.

Deterra is used by law enforcement agencies like Ohio’s Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Minnesota’s Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office to complement drop-off locations and ensure residents have a way to safely destroy unneeded drugs at home between take-back events. This is especially helpful for those who live in rural areas, where individuals have an 87% higher chance of receiving an opioid prescription than their urban counterparts despite being located far from drop-off sites.

Deterra can also be used to dispose of liquid medications, which are not accepted at many take-back events.

sheriffs handing out deterra
an officer handing out deterra

Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office deputies handed out Deterra Pouches as part of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in October 2020 (photos courtesy of Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office).

Changing Disposal Habits with Drug Deactivation 

It’s crucial to provide individuals with convenient options to properly dispose of medications as soon as they are no longer needed. Common methods of disposal such as sinking, flushing or mixing unused drugs with substances like coffee grounds before tossing in the trash are not only ineffective but also pose a risk to the environment. Changing disposal habits requires education on the importance of choosing safe, permanent methods of drug destruction and offering every opportunity for people to get unused drugs out of their home medicine cabinets.


About the Authors

Steve Murphy is a retired Special Agent in Charge with the DEA and serves on Deterra’s Advisory Council. His team’s takedown of Pablo Escobar is the inspiration for the hit Netflix® series Narcos.

Steve Murphy
William F. Alden

William F. Alden is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the DEA Educational Foundation and a member of Deterra’s Advisory Council. Mr. Alden has spent over 40 years in the field of drug enforcement and abuse prevention; he retired as Chief of DEA’s Office of Congressional and Public Affairs and Deputy Director of DARE America.

Read Next

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University of Houston College of Pharmacy


The University of Houston PREMIER Center created a grant-funded program to prevent prescription drug misuse and distribute at-home drug disposal resources statewide.


Learn how the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio has provided thousands of at-home drug disposal pouches to help the community prevent medication misuse before it starts.

Vinayak Menon distributes Deterra Pouches


Georgia teen Vinayak Menon distributes the Deterra Drug Deactivation and Disposal System to raise awareness about the importance of proper drug disposal.