Take Back Events Program
What is a Take Back Day?
Take Back Day is a coordinated day across the US where the DEA asks law enforcement agencies to partner with local communities to collect unneeded medications (pills, tablets, capsules) and return them to the DEA for destruction. Read more about DEA’s Take Back Day.
To find a take back event near you, use the DEA’s Collection Site Locator. Please check back regularly, as events are continually added.
Why Host a Take Back Event?
Prevention is key. To turn the tide of the opioid epidemic, we need to prevent substance misuse before it begins. Creating safe and convenient opportunities for community members to dispose of their unused and leftover medications is essential. These events also serve as an opportunity to educate community members on how to safely store medications at home and how to safely dispose of medications year-round.
How Do I Host a Take Back Event?
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) selects a day in the spring and the fall to host nationwide events. OPEN partners with local communities in Michigan to support events;
- OPEN Take Back Event resource folder
- Opioids Safe Storage and Disposal brochure
- Sharps and Liquids Safe Disposal brochure
Guidance on planning and the implementation processes:
It is the event organizer’s responsibility to seek additional information where required, ensure that all approvals have been obtained, and adherence to all Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations.
OPEN has limited scholarships available for organizations in financial need that are hosting events in high-impact counties listed below. Apply here.
- St. Clair
Take Back Event Success
Planning an Event
Take Back Events are hosted in partnership with local law enforcement and the DEA.
Law Enforcement – contact them early and work closely with them, a law enforcement officer is required to register an event.
- 1 officer is required, 2 are recommended
- Law enforcement takes custody of all medications collected at the event
Every take back event must be registered through the DEA. The point of contact for events in Michigan is Detroit.Take.Back@dea.gov. The DEA will assist you with providing disposal boxes for your event and posters to advertise your event.
Contact the DEA point of contact (POC) for your state listed on this website. Your POC will let you know how to register your event with the DEA.
In Michigan, sites must register for each event hosted.
In order to host a successful Take Back Event, it is important to get the whole community involved. Begin by forming a team comprised of volunteers and law enforcement. Your team members will be critical to spreading the word and ensuring that everything runs smoothly on the day of the event.
- Responsibilities of Event Organizer
- Create and review budget
- Connect with law enforcement and other partners
- Recruit volunteers and delegate tasks
- Create and distribute promotional and educational material
- Responsibilities of Volunteers:
- Advertise for the event (ex: distributing flyers)
- Contribute to other tasks (ex: ordering food, picking up brochures, etc.)
- Set up and clean the day of the event
- Run workstations
- Direct traffic, greet participants, and answer questions
- Responsibilities of Law Enforcement:
- Maintain control and custody of collected substances
- Dispose/destroy controlled substances in accordance with local, state, and federal guidelines
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requires one law enforcement officer present, unless the event uses a permanent disposal box
- OPEN recommends the presence of at least two officers
The venue you choose is important to make sure your community can get to the event. Make sure that law enforcement and the property manager approve of hosting the event at the desired location.
Things to consider when choosing a venue:
- Easy entrances and exits for participant safety
- Well known or easy to find location
- Space to set up tent (if outdoors) and/or tables
- Sufficient parking and accessible via public transportation
- Access to restrooms
- Safe perimeter around event
- Consider tents/tables/chairs (if outside) or tables/chairs if inside
- Parking lots
- Places of worship
- General Supplies
- Shipping/packing tape (to secure table cloths)
- Zip ties or rope (to hang banners)
- Waste bins and liners
- Medication disposal box (request through DEA)
- Workstation Setup
- Plastic table cloths
- Clipboards (for gathering feedback and recording collection numbers)
- Ink pens
- King-size black permanent markers (to cross off personal information on pill bottles)
- Hand sanitizer
- Quart-size resealable bags (in case participants want to keep their pill bottles)
- Disinfectant wipes
- Disposable gloves
- Paper towels
- Rental Supplies
- Tent with canopy sides (if event is held outside)
- Folding chairs
- Banquet table(s) for workstations and shared supplies
- Volunteer apparel (t-shirts, hats, pins, or name tags to differentiate volunteers)
- Food, coffee, or bottled water for volunteers
- Candy bowl for participants
- Balloons for decoration and event visibility
- Container to collect questionnaires (if you are distributing questionnaires to participants)
- Educational Materials Co-branding with OPEN
You’re welcome to download/share any of our resources! We can add your organization’s logo to our materials and share the printable file with you. Visit our co-branding program page to learn more and apply.
- Law Enforcement – contact them early and work closely with them
- 1 officer is required, 2 are recommended
- Law enforcement takes custody of all medications collected at the event
- Cardboard disposal box comes from law enforcement or Whitney Solutions
- Law enforcement registers event with DEA (POC list here)
- Law enforcement is not needed if meds are being collected using a permanent disposal box
- Contact points with your local law enforcement agency include community engagement officers, community outreach officers, and school resource officers
- DEA License
- Code of Federal Regulations for Disposal
- Code of Federal Regulations for Take Back Events
- You do not need to have a DEA license if you have law enforcement at your event
- If you’re using a permanent disposal box, you already have a DEA license and do not need law enforcement at your event
- *additional services, such as sharps disposal, may require a DEA license. Check with your law enforcement officer if you wish to offer any additional services.
The organization and volunteers are responsible for funding the event. If funding is a barrier, OPEN has seen success for organizers reaching out to organizations in the community.
- Businesses might donate printing services, banners, equipment rental, food for volunteers, or office supplies
- Some law enforcement agencies fund their own officers; other agencies will ask your organization to fund labor for the event
- Government grants (local, state, national) may be available
- Try partnering with a large organization (like a university or health system) for funding
- Ask a local business to sponsor your event
- To find volunteers, try asking local college students (especially nursing, pharmacy, medicine, criminal justice students) or volunteer organizations (sororities/fraternities, scouts, church groups)
- Contact law enforcement and secure at least one officer for your event
- Find a location to host the event and permission from law enforcement and property owner
- Register your event with the DEA
- Find volunteers
- Advertise event (email, radio, fliers, billboards, social media, word of mouth)
- Design/print yard signs, banners, table cloths, handouts
- Gather required supplies (scale, clear tray, disposal boxes, tables/chairs)
- Gather optional supplies (Deterra, naloxone, sharps containers)
- Write down collection amounts the day of the event and any feedback from attendees/volunteers
Take back events can coincide with additional community services, but these are the responsibility of the organization and volunteers planning the event (law enforcement is not obligated to help with these).
Examples of these services include
- Sharps collection
- Distribution of sharps containers
- Naloxone distribution
- Distribution of educational materials
- Training on how to use naloxone
- Distribution of wound care kits
- Harm reduction services
- Anything else your group would like to offer
These services are all optional. None of the services listed above are required to participate in DEA Take Back Day. Before planning additional services, communicate the plan to your law enforcement officer and ensure they are comfortable offering those services at your event. Law enforcement is not obligated to pay for these services. The DEA will not collect sharps through DEA Take Back Day. It is the responsibility of your organization to ensure compliance with all state and federal regulations pertaining to medication collection when choosing to offer these services.
- Before 10am local time: volunteers set up
- 10am-2pm: collect medications in disposal box
- 2pm: law enforcement weighs medications then returns to DEA (usually same day or the following Monday)
- 2pm: volunteers break down event
The DEA will only collect certain substances at take back events. These substances are accepted:
- Pills, capsules, and tablets
- Including pet medications, prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and expired medications
- Medication patches
- Any solid medications
- Liquids in original container
The DEA will not collect these substances:
- Schedule I drugs and cannabis-based medications
- Needles, syringes, or lancets
- Vape pens or electronic devices without removable batteries
While law enforcement will maintain control and custody of your medication disposal box contents, the hosting organization is responsible for the collection and disposal of any sharps you receive.
- Supplies: sharps container or container made of heavy-duty plastic that cannot be punctured and has a tight-fitting lid (make sure it can sit upright and that it is not filled more than ⅔ of the way)
- Do NOT use water bottles, metal cans, or glass jars
- Do NOT throw sharps or used sharps containers into trash or recycling
- For disposal:
- If using a hospital container: contact hospital for instruction
- If using red purchased container: read instructions on how to pay to ship the filled containers for incineration
- If using homemade containers: visit safeneedledisposal.org to find a disposal location in your area, contact your regular garbage collector and ask about container pickup, OR contact your city, village, or town office and ask about hazardous household waste collection events
- Inhalers can be returned to certain permanent disposal sites. Call ahead of time to ensure the site accepts inhalers for disposal.
- Inhalers can be returned using appropriate mail-back envelopes, such as these envelopes available through American RX Group. Follow the instructions included with the envelope to return the inhaler(s).
Solid medications, including pills, can be removed from the original container and placed directly into the DEA collection box. Liquid medications should remain in the original containers and be closed tightly to prevent leaking.
It is highly recommended that event organizers only use collection boxes provided by the DEA to ensure each box is an appropriate size and weight to carry safely.
If illicit substances, including marijuana or methamphetamine, are surrendered at a take back event, law enforcement should handle such material as abandoned property in accordance with department policy.
All participants must retain possession of their own medication during the surrender process. Law enforcement personnel should not handle the medications at any time.
No effort should be made by law enforcement personnel to count, inventory, or log medications.