Safe Disposal

Safe Disposal of Unused, Old, or Expired Medications

It’s always best to get rid of medications that are no longer in use or that have exceeded their expiration date, as these are considered hazardous substances. You may think this is because they lose potency, but even expired medications can retain full or nearly full effectiveness for years, and you don’t want them lingering in the home, where they could pose a risk to children or pets, or serve as a temptation for substance abuse.

How can you safely and responsibly dispose of unused, old, or expired medications? There are several appropriate options.

Drug Take-Back

The best way to dispose of unused prescription medications that are no longer needed is to take them to a pharmacy, as any pharmacy in Canada will take back your unused or expired medications. In addition, some municipalities offer take-back programs. Just be sure to remove or black out any identifying information on prescription medication containers before you dispose of them, to protect your identity.

Disposal in Household Trash

If drug take-back is not an option, you can dispose of unused and unwanted medication in the household trash. Simply remove pills from their container (whole—do not crush) and dump them in a plastic container or baggie with dirt, cat litter, used coffee grounds, or another undesirable substance. Seal the container or bag and throw it in the trash can. Be sure to remove or black out prescription labels before disposing of original containers, to protect your privacy.