Health district’s drug take-back program to start in the spring

  • By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, June 14, 2016 7:35pm
  • Local News

EVERETT — Almost every home has them stuffed away in drawers: Bottles of partially used cough medicine, antihistamines left over from colds and vials of half-used prescription medications, such as pain pills, steroids, and other powerful medications.

Starting next year, safely disposing of over-the-counter and prescription medications should be far easier. The first of up to 175 disposal sites are expected to open in Snohomish County in the spring. They will be located at places such as pharmacies and hospitals.

The drug take-back program was unanimously approved by the Snohomish Health District’s governing board on Tuesday.

Snohomish County joins King County as the second community in the state to approve a drug take-back program. Similar programs exist in California’s Alameda County and in British Columbia, said Jefferson Ketchel, the health district’s environmental health director.

During a public hearing on the take-back plan, Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary urged board members to support it. “We know from Healthy Youth Surveys that many of the ways people are becoming opioid addicts is through our medicine cabinets,” he said.

Currently, there’s few good ways to dispose of unneeded medications, said Heather Thomas, health district spokeswoman. About a third of the medications sold to the public go unused. Throwing them away in the trash is banned under solid waste regulations, she said.

“Flushing them down the toilet isn’t good either,” Thomas said. “Even our most sophisticated waste water treatment facility can’t strip out pharmaceuticals when treating the water. Some of those go back into lakes, waterways, streams and ultimately back into our drinking water.”

The disposal problem isn’t just limited to prescribed medications. Over-the-counter medicines, such as antihistamines, ibuprofen and Tylenol are among the top 10 causes of poisonings in Washington homes, especially for children, according to the Washington Poison Center.

The plan is for producers of medicines and prescription drugs to pay for the disposal program, an estimated $570,000 cost, Ketchel said. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a national advocacy group, sent two letters to the health district objecting to the proposal.

If the manufacturers pass costs directly to consumers, it likely would add a couple of cents to the cost of a prescription, Ketchel said.

The county has had a drug take-back program since 2010. So far that’s captured 34,000 pounds of unwanted medications, with 26 drop-off locations at police stations.

That program is at capacity, Ketchel said. “The evidence rooms at the police departments can’t handle it.”

Karen Bowman, an occupational and environmental health specialist with the Washington State Nurses Association, questioned the practice of simply flushing away unused medications. “We can’t use this antiquated system of dumping medications down the toilet,” she said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486;

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

The M/V Puyallup docks at the Edmonds waterfront on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020 in Edmonds. The ferry along with the passenger loading walkway were struck by lightning last week. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Tune in for virtual meeting on Edmonds-Kingston ferry

The series of Washington State Ferries meetings are for updates and public comment. A recording is available online.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit: Defective inhaler led to death of Mountlake Terrace man

Pharmaceutical company Perrigo recalled inhalers in September 2020. Months earlier, Antonio Fritz Sr. picked one up at a pharmacy.

Most Read