More than 100 drop boxes have been placed throughout King County in an effort to get secure unneeded opioids.

Share story

Those unused prescribed drugs languishing in your medicine cabinet could lead to a loved one’s addiction. Public Health — Seattle & King County is trying to stop this common avenue to opioid addiction by making it as easy for residents to dispose of the drugs in medical drop boxes throughout the county.

The county first installed discarded-drug drop boxes in 2017. There are now more than 100 drop boxes, many located at or near pharmacies. In an effort to make it easier for people, Public Health recently introduced a text service and website showing where to find the closest one.

The drop-box program was one of eight recommendations by the Seattle & King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force. The task force’s co-chair, Brad Finegood, said it is vital that unused opiate prescriptions are properly disposed of, noting that 80 percent of heroin addicts begin by using prescription drugs.

“Idle medication laying around the house is way too frequent and that is what gets people on the path to opioid-use disorder,” he said.

Finegood suggests that at-home medications that are being used should be locked up.

In 2017, the first year the drop boxes were installed, the county collected 39,160 pounds of medications.

The county’s efforts coincide with the unveiling of Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed budget, which includes $30 million to address the opioid crisis. Much of the money would go toward programs the county hasn’t yet focused on and would help the county to continue to lower barriers to treatment the same day that people want it, said King County Executive Dow Constantine at a news conference at Harborview Medical Center on Monday.

Giving people less exposure to unused prescription medications helps public-health workers get ahead of issues related to opioid addiction, Finegood said. A driving factor in the increase of opioid-use disorder and overdose deaths is the appearance of fentanyl, a powerful and deadly synthetic narcotic. According to Public Health, 203 people have died from opioid overdoses this year and 52 have died from fentanyl-related overdoses, topping the 2017 total of 33 fentanyl-related deaths.