County of Marin - News Releases - Drug Take-Back Month

For Immediate Release
September 24, 2020

Prevent Misuse of Drugs During Challenging Times

October is Marin’s Drug Take-Back Month

San Rafael, CA – An unprecedented pandemic, wildfires, and smoke, coupled with the persistent threats of power outages and economic uncertainty, have produced an extraordinarily stressful environment. In desperation, many may turn to use of substances to relieve that stress.

A woman deposits a paper back full of unused prescription drugs into a receptacle at a police station lobby.The 24 drug take-back locations around Marin include most police department lobbies, CVS pharmacies, and Kaiser locations.

“Our environment affects our mental health,” said Dr. Jeff Devido of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Some people may be tempted to take old prescription medications stashed around the house. Now is the time for our community to eliminate that risk. Safe disposal saves lives.”

The next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is Saturday, October 24, coordinated by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Due to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Marin HHS is declaring the whole month of October as Drug Take-Back Month. Residents are encouraged to make a deposit of unused and unwanted medications into one of 24 receptacles located around the county. It is a great opportunity for Marin residents to help prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths.

“We are in such challenging times and many are struggling,” said Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Dr. Jei Africa. “Substance use has increased nationally. There’s so much uncertainty and fear with COVID-19, wildfires, extreme heat, power shutoffs, and what’s going on socially and politically. We have to ensure that our homes remain safe, so take-back opportunities are critical to ensure that unused medications are safely disposed.”

About one-quarter of Marin residents need help for substance misuse or mental health problems. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. The study showed that a majority of misused prescription opioid medications were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. Medicines that languish and are left in unlocked locations are highly susceptible to diversion and misuse.

To address the widespread availability of prescription drugs, agencies, pharmacies and health care providers across Marin participate in the collection of potentially harmful expired, unused, and unwanted medications throughout the year. The 24 locations around Marin include CVS pharmacies, Kaiser locations, and most police departments.

RxSafe Marin is a local grassroots community initiative collaborating to tackle what’s described as an epidemic of opioid-related overdoses. Drug overdose remains the leading cause of accidental death in Marin. RxSafe Marin, a collaboration between concerned community members, Marin HHS, and professionals from many other County departments, works to limit the public health risk posed by prescription medications by promoting safe prescribing by clinicians and increasing opportunities for safe disposal of unused and unwanted medications. Partly because of RxSafe Marin’s successes, prescriptions are not written as freely and liberally as they used to be, thanks to the cooperation of medical health professionals.

“Every year, we’re seeing more medications disposed of safely in Marin and fewer opioids being prescribed,” said County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. “With less coming in to the community, and more being removed, there’s a lot less available for misuse and abuse. Our community has really responded to this issue.”

Organized drug take-back efforts and the safe disposal of medications have been fruitful. In 2019, 14,673 pounds of unneeded drugs were collected in Marin, up from 11,128 in 2018 and 8,300 in 2017. Every year since 2015, Marin has seen more drugs being returned and properly discarded. Statewide, 56,410 pounds were dropped off at 336 collection sites in 2019. Since September 2010, almost 13 million pounds of drugs have been disposed of nationally through the take-back programs.

Drug take-back locations are open during the facility’s regular hours of operation. The service is provided free and anonymously. Medications are accepted in any dosage form in their original container or a sealed bag. Note that drop-off locations cannot accept herbal remedies, vitamins, supplements, cosmetics, other personal care products, medical devices, batteries, mercury-containing thermometers, sharps, and illicit drugs.

For more information and to find year-round drug drop-off locations, visit


Kathy Koblick
Public Health Division Director
Health and Human Services

3240 Kerner Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 473-2979
Email: Kathy Koblick
Marin HHS website