Keep Your Loved Ones Safe from Accidental Poisoning and Overdose

Photo of African American grandfather and grandson, laughing and wrestling on a green lawn.

Safely store the medicines you use and dispose of what you no longer need.

Did you know that more than 50 percent of older adults take more than five medications or supplements daily? Storing medicines that you no longer need with the five or more medications you use can put you at risk for not taking your medicine as prescribed.

Stay safe—only store the medicines you use, and safely dispose of the medicines you no longer need at a medicine return drop-box. Drop-boxes are safe, convenient, and located at participating pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, and law enforcement offices throughout King County. If you are home bound or have limited mobility, you can request a mail-back envelope to dispose of unwanted medicines. There is no cost to King County residents to dispose of unwanted medicines at a medicine return drop-box or by using a mail-back envelope.

Photo of a hand--probably a young child--reach up over the edge of a table or shelf toward an open box of medicine.

Keep medicines out of reach of children and teens by storing it safely or disposing of what you no longer need properly.

Children and teens are also at risk

Children can be curious and can get into medicines or mistake them for candy. Many teens mistakenly believe it is safe to misuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs because they get them from their family or friend’s medicine cabinet, often without their knowledge.

Reducing access to unwanted household medicines is a key to reducing prescription drug abuse and preventing poisoning and overdose. Keeping medicine out of reach of children and teens by safely storing the medicine you use and disposing of what you no longer need helps keep your family safe.

Safe storage tips to keep medicines out of the reach of kids and teens.

  • Find a location to store medicines in that is out of reach of small children.
  • Medicines should be put away after each use.
  • Never leave medicines out on a kitchen counter or bedside table, even if you use them daily.
  • Never tell children medicine is candy, even if they don’t want to take their medicine.
  • Always remind guests to keep purses, bags or coats that have medicine in them out of reach.
  • Blue box with yellow, black, and white lettering that reads "Safely dispose of unwanted & expired medicines here."

    Drop-boxes are located throughout King County at participating pharmacies and law enforcement offices.

    Keeping medicines in a locked drawer or medicine lock box is a safe and secure way to keep what you use away from teens and children.

Medicines are polluting our environment

Water and soil tests have shown that medicines are contaminating our environment. Even at low levels, medicines in the environment hurt aquatic life. Recently, salmon in Puget Sound were found to carry high levels of hormones, opiates, antibiotics, and other pharmaceuticals in their tissue. Do not flush prescription medicines or over-the-counter medications and do not put them in the garbage—eventually they end up in our waterways and even our drinking water.

To find a medicine return drop-box in your community or to learn more about the program, visit

This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of AgeWise King County (click here).