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The Deterra®  Drug Deactivation and Disposal System is the simplest and most effective way to dispose of medication at home or in a clinical setting to keep unwanted prescription and over the counter drugs out of the wrong hands and prevent environmental contamination. Below, you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about Deterra products and at-home drug disposal.

After deactivation, can the drug be extracted from the carbon?

Based on testing, back extraction of the deactivated drugs is not effective. When used properly, the activated carbon will retain the drugs, rendering the contents of the Deterra Drug Deactivation System inert, unavailable for misuse and safe for the environment.

Are the active ingredients in the Deterra Drug Deactivation System safe?

The granular activated carbon used in Deterra is non-corrosive to skin and eyes. The organic carbon is considered non-flammable and stable under normal conditions for shipment, storage and use. There are no known harmful effects associated with ingestion of carbon used in Deterra; it is considered non-toxic. For more information, please see Deterra Drug Deactivation System Safety Data Sheets.

Can’t I just flush or “sink” leftover medications?

Generally, most medications should not be flushed. Water treatment facilities struggle to filter out all pharmaceutical drugs from the water. As of 2014, there were over 1,500 published reports of the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in sewage, surface waters, ground waters, and elsewhere. One study found 47 different pharmaceutical drugs in source water samples and 37 different drugs in water after moving through water treatment plants across the U.S. Because of these findings, most federal, state and local authorities are now recommending (and many requiring) that pharmaceuticals NOT be disposed of in the toilet or sink.

Does Deterra come in multiple sizes?

Yes, Deterra is available in multiple sizes. If you’re interested in Deterra for yourself, you can view sizes and purchase online here. For case quantities, visit our business products page or contact a Deterra representative at (612) 568-1128 to determine which size will best meet your needs.

Does Deterra expire?

Deterra pouches and containers do not expire.

Have government agencies endorsed Deterra?

Deterra is officially endorsed by the DEA Educational Foundation and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) for unused drug deactivation and disposal.

Deterra is the only product that CADCA has endorsed in its 30-year history. Both CADCA and the DEA Educational Foundation cite Deterra’s strong scientific backing and proven effectiveness as reasons why Deterra products are trusted over other products on the market.

Updated FDA guidelines for drug disposal include at-home medication disposal products as a safe, convenient way to properly dispose of unused medicine.

How can I comply with local environmental regulations?

At-home drug disposal is generally unregulated by federal, state and local authorities. Local regulations may vary, please consult authorities or your pharmacist with specific questions. Deterra is not for use with drugs that are supplied with specific disposal instructions. Different laws may apply to healthcare or other regulated facilities.

How does at-home disposal with Deterra compare with other disposal options like secure drop boxes or drug take back programs?

Not everyone has easy access to drug take-back sites. According to research from the American Academy of Family Physicians, those in rural areas had an 87% higher chance of receiving an opioid prescription compared to those in metropolitan areas but are located further away from take back locations. If there aren’t safe medication disposal sites near you, you can dispose of medication at home in a convenient and environmentally sound way with Deterra.


In addition, there is some debate about the effectiveness of drug take back programs to curb drug misuse. Research published in JAMA Surgery  found that less than 15% of patients given education on drop-off sites disposed of their drugs in that manner.


Deterra’s goal is to increase options for safe and effective drug disposal and reduce the number of unused medications in the world. Our product complements alternative disposal methods, like drop-off sites, community drug take-back programs or throwing medications in the trash by offering an at-home disposal option.

How does the Deterra Drug Deactivation System work?

Each patented Deterra Pouch contains a water-soluble inner pod containing proprietary activated carbon. To dispose of prescription or over the counter medications, a user places the drugs in the pouch and adds water, which dissolves the inner pod and releases the activated carbon. The carbon binds to the active ingredients in the medications. Once deactivated, the drugs are permanently and irreversibly destroyed, unavailable for misuse and safe for disposal in the normal trash.

To learn more about the science behind Deterra, visit our Science and Research section. For how-to videos and instructions for how to use the Deterra Drug Deactivation System to dispose of medications, visit our Resources section.

How is Deterra different from its competitors?

Deterra is the only at-home drug disposal system that is scientifically proven to permanently deactivate and destroy drugs, rendering them unavailable for abuse and misuse.

  • Our technology is protected by 13 U.S. patents and 35 international patents and cannot be replicated by others.
  • Deterra contains enough activated carbon to permanently deactivate the amount of medication claimed on the label. Other carbon-based disposal products may not, leaving medications available for misuse and abuse.
  • We don’t just mask medications in a gel or liquid; our patented approach completely destroys pills, patches, liquids, creams and films.
  • Deterra Pouches contain a smaller percentage of plastic when disposed of than competitor products. 1


1 Compared to Deterra products, competitor products contain a higher percentage of plastic when disposed of: DisposeRx® 59%; NarcX® 78%; Rx Destroyer™ 68%; Drug Buster® 67%

How many drugs can Deterra containers and pouches deactivate at a time?

The recommended capacity varies by size and is listed on each Deterra pouch or container. Please always follow the directions on the back of the Deterra Drug Deactivation System.

How quickly does the deactivation process start?

With Deterra, the process of deactivation starts immediately, but it can take time to complete. Some highly soluble drugs will dissolve and adsorb rapidly, while other less soluble drug types will take longer to dissolve and adsorb. The deactivation period varies based on volume and type of medication. As an additional safety precaution, it is important to keep Deterra out of reach of children and pets as the medication is deactivated.

If I work in a healthcare facility with a DEA registration, does using Deterra to dispose of controlled substances ensure compliance with my registration?

According to the DEA, any destruction method applied to a controlled substance must render it “non-retrievable” and subsequently unavailable, unusable, and no longer available for diversion for all practical purposes. Testing results have shown Deterra renders drugs non-retrievable for all practical purposes. Ultimately, it is up to the individual waste generator to ensure that they comply with all local, state and federal regulations.

What about mixing unused medications with coffee grounds, cat litter, or sawdust? 

These common but ineffective methods of medication disposal harm the environment and maintain the integrity of the active drugs. Medications are not completely destroyed if you use these temporary methods – abuse can still occur. Cat litter, coffee grounds, and sawdust may make the drug undesirable but do not deactivate the drugs. Once in the landfill, these drugs may potentially leach into the ground and into the water. Third-party testing proves that the proprietary activated carbon in Deterra deactivates the drugs rendering them inert and safe for the environment.

What are Deterra storage temperature requirements?

Deterra products do not need to be stored at a specific temperature and do not lose efficacy when stored in extreme heat or cold. However, the pouch or container may expand or contract in these conditions.

What drugs will Deterra deactivate?

The Deterra® Drug Deactivation and Disposal System will deactivate organic medications including opioids, fentanyl, most illicit drugs and vape fluid.

However, Deterra will not adsorb biologics, such as vaccines and immunotherapeutics which are typically administered in a healthcare setting. Additionally, inorganic medications—such as antacids, lithium, and iron supplements—will not be adsorbed. Deterra will not deactivate leaf marijuana.

It is impossible to know all forms and potency of illicit drugs. Follow state and local guidelines on safe medication disposal where applicable.

If your medication has specific disposal instructions, please follow the directions as given. Consult authorities or your pharmacist for more specific questions.

What if I accidentally add more drugs than the recommended amount?

Adding drugs to Deterra in amounts at (or less than) our recommended capacity will result in optimal deactivation efficiency. If one were to add slightly more than the recommended pharmaceutical capacity, deactivation of additional drugs will still occur but at reduced efficiency. Please always follow the directions on the back of the Deterra Drug Deactivation and Disposal System.

What is the Deterra Drug Deactivation System?

The Deterra® Drug Deactivation System is a safe medication disposal pouch or container that can be used at home or in a clinical setting. It is the safest, most effective choice used to destroy and properly dispose of unused, unwanted, and expired medications with the simple addition of tap water.

What would happen if I didn’t add water?

The water-soluble pod inside the pouch will not open and expose the carbon to the medication. Tap water will also help dissolve pills and draw the drugs out of patches. The absence of water will not allow the deactivation process to begin. Please always follow the directions on the back of the Deterra Drug Deactivation System.

Why is Deterra better for the environment? Aren’t we just adding another plastic bag to landfills?

Deterra is environmentally sound through the entire product life cycle. From using 100% wind-generated power in production of the plant-based pouches to the non-toxic organic ingredients to its innovative pouch design, the product:

  • Provides a convenient and immediate alternative to flushing or discarding medications and prevents still-potent drugs from contaminating our water supply and landfills through activated carbon adsorption.
  • Has a smaller carbon footprint due to its plant-based packaging. The packaging is USDA Certified, 50% or more bio-based, and has received the I’m green™ plastic certification.
  • Deterra Pouches are manufactured in a factory built to LEED® Silver sustainable building guidelines on equipment powered by 100% wind-generated electrical energy and are printed using an Expanded Color Gamut Process to reduce ink consumption and waste.
  • Deterra 1.0 Containers are comprised of 25% Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) material.

To help educate users on the importance of proper drug disposal for the environment and how to use the Deterra® Drug Deactivation System, we offer free educational materials for consumers and dispensers. See resources.

How much does Deterra cost?

On a per-pill basis, Deterra is the least costly at-home, permanent deactivation option. Volume discounts are available on quantities of 100,000 or more. Contact us at (612) 568-1128 for a custom quote or get pricing online.

How do I purchase Deterra online?

Deterra Pouches are available for purchase online in packs of three for individual at-home use. Businesses and organizations interested in purchasing case quantities of Deterra Pouches, Containers and/or Accessories can create an account to shop online using our business customer portal. Review our customer portal FAQs to learn more about creating a business account and ordering online.