How to Get Rid of Medicines

How to Get Rid of Medicines

Topic Contents


It's important to get rid of your medicines when you no longer need to take them. You should also get rid of expired medicine.

An expired medicine is past its "use by" or "discard by" date. It may not work as well. And it may no longer be safe to use.

Make sure to get rid of medicine safely. Doing so can help prevent other people, or even animals, from using medicines that aren't meant for them. That could cause serious problems. This is especially important if you have small children or teens in the house.

How do you get rid of medicines?

Here are a few ways you can get rid of medicines safely. If you have any questions about your old or unwanted medicines, ask a pharmacist for help.

  • Check the label on the bottle or box.

    The label may tell you how to get rid of the medicine safely. You can also look at any information that came with the bottle or box.

  • Bring the medicine to a take-back program or drop-off box.
    • Most pharmacies offer a take-back program or a place to drop off medicine. Some local municipalities and police offices may also offer a take-back programs.
  • Put most kinds of medicines in the trash safely.

    If there isn't a take-back program or drop-off box near you, follow these steps to throw away most kinds of medicine with the rest of your garbage.

    1. Take it out of the container it came in.

      You can throw that container away. But first scratch out any personal information printed on the label. This will help protect your identity and health information.

    2. Mix the medicine with a substance that doesn't taste good. You might use cat litter, sawdust, or coffee grounds.

      Don't crush tablets or capsules.

    3. Place the mixture in some other container. You might use a sealed plastic bag or can.
    4. Put that container in your household trash.
  • Do not flush your medicine down the toilet or sink.
    • Health Canada recommends against flushing any medicine down the toilet or sink.
  • Take special care with used opioid patches.
    • As soon as you peel a patch off of your skin, fold it in half with the sticky sides together. Immediately take it to the pharmacy to safely get rid of it. Do not throw it in the trash.


Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine