Getting rid of old medications? Make sure you dispose of them safely (and keep them out of the reach of children).

Don’t flush them: dispose of old drugs to keep everyone safe

Get rid of old or out-of-date medications safely

August is National Drop-Off Month for unused and expired medications, and since the need for Canadians to dispose safely of old medications began to be promoted in 2013, people have responded by returning more and more items to their local pharmacy rather than throwing them in the garbage, flushing them down the toilet, or pouring them into the sink.

In 2018, 828 tonnes of unused and expired medicine were returned to local pharmacies across Canada; a 14 per cent increase over 2017.

For the last six years Drug Free Kids (DFK) Canada, in partnership with the Health Products Stewardship Association, has been promoting the need for Canadians to keep their medications—both prescription and non-prescription—safely secured and out of the reach of children at home, and to return all leftover or expired medications to their pharmacy.

Even if you no longer have children in the home, it’s important to return unused or leftover medications, medical equipment, and natural medicines to pharmacies, as keeping easily accessible medications and medical sharps around the house can have a potentially devastating impact. There are also possible harmful effects from flushing medications down the toilet, pouring them down the drain, or throwing them in the garbage.

A medicine cabinet that cannot be opened without a key is the best place to store medications. Go through it regularly and look for medications that are no longer being used or which are out of date. Do not remove the medication from its container; instead, place it in a bag and take it to your local pharmacy for safe and proper disposal.

Drug Free Kids Canada is a private sector, non‐profit organization that creates and disseminates drug education and prevention messages with the help of their partners in advertising, research, and media. DFK also offers parents valuable tools and practical tips on how to start the conversation with their kids at

The Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA) operates returns programs that are an easy and safe way to dispose of medications and other health products that we all have in our homes. It encourages Canadians to safely return their expired or unused prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and natural health products to participating pharmacies for responsible disposal. For a list of locations in your area, visit

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