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Cleaning out the medicine cabinet

It’s important to clean out our medicine cabinets on a regular basis and get rid of expired and unused prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and natural health products (if you are unsure if a drug is still good, you can ask your pharmacist). People often hold on to unused medications because they think they may be useful in the future; however this belief can have a dangerous (and possibly fatal) impact on those in our households, including ourselves. Examples include:

  • Others in the household (possibly teenagers) could use them recreationally if they are available

  • Children may ingest them by accident – drugs are a major source of child poisonings.

  • Taking expired medication can delay the treatment and diagnosis of an illness and could also interact negatively with other medication.

So how do you get rid of them properly? A take-back program is the best option. Visit for a list of take-back programs across Canada. For areas without a program, you can check with your local pharmacy first, and if they don’t have a program, the Government of Canada recommends the following for the safe disposal of drugs in the garbage:

  • Remove medications from their original containers. Scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.

  • Hide the medications in something unappealing, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. This makes the drug less attractive to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who go through the trash seeking drugs. Place this mixture in a closed bag, empty can or other sealed container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.

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