Health & Wellness

How to Get Rid of Expired Meds Safely

You can’t just throw out drugs you no longer need 

By Caitlin Finlay


Have you ever wondered what to do with leftover or expired medications? Most pharmacies will collect them free of charge, and some cities have take-back programs for the safe disposal of medical waste.

Most of us have leftover or expired medications in our medicine cabinets. It’s important to dispose of these medications to avoid accidentally taking the wrong medication or taking an expired medication. The instinct may be to throw them in the garbage, flush them down a toilet, or pour them into the sink, but these aren’t safe ways to dispose of medications. If medications aren’t disposed of properly, they can get into the water or environment, or be found by children, pets, or wild animals.

The correct way to dispose of leftover or expired medications, natural health products, or medical sharps (such as needles and lancets), is to bring them to your local pharmacy, where they can be sent to a licensed incineration facility. If you live in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, or Prince Edward Island, you can also access a map of drop-off locations for medications from the Health Products Stewardship Association. (These drop off locations in British Columbia don’t necessarily accept medical sharps, so contact your local pharmacy to ask about a disposal policy. In Ontario and British Columbia, these drop-off locations also accept medications used for pets.)

To return medications, empty all pills or tablets into a container or bag and remove any personal information. Liquid medications, inhalers, or creams can be kept in their original packaging, but be sure to remove any personal information. For medical sharps, your local pharmacy can provide you with an approved container into which they can be placed. Once the container has been filled, return it to the pharmacy for proper disposal.

Photo: iStock/alexskopje.