Don't flush or throw out your old or unused medications, pharmacist says

August is national drug drop-off month, but a pharmacist in Waterloo says old or unused medications can be brought back to any local pharmacy for proper disposal at any time.

Medications people don't need anymore can be returned to any pharmacy

Majority of people who are prescribed opioids post surgery don't take them, which makes them accessible to unintended users like guests or kids. (Government of Saskatchewan)

Health care professionals are urging the community to be more cautious when it comes to disposing of unused or expired medications.

"A lot of people still flush unused medications down the toilet, which is something we do not want happening," Preet Sian, a Waterloo pharmacist, told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition's Craig Norris.

Sian said many people are also getting rid of drugs this way as a matter of convenience, but the practice promotes unsafe medication-taking and is also bad for the environment.

"These contaminants can get into our water and soil," she said.

A recent report from Statistics Canada looked at wastewater samples from five major cities. The wastewater was tested for traces of cannabis, methamphetamine and cocaine and showed the drugs are used in different ways depending on the city and time of year.

Sian said this issue also plays a role when it comes to the opioid crisis. The majority of people who are prescribed opioids post surgery don't take them, which makes them accessible to unintended users like guests or kids.

"We know one in seven students has tried a prescription or [over the counter] product to abuse it," she said.

Put medication into clear bag

August is national drug drop-off month, but Sian says people can drop off unused or expired medications to any pharmacy, including the ones at grocery stores.

"Just empty the bottles into a clear ziploc bag and return it to your local pharmacy," Sian said. Sharps like syringes can also be brought back to pharmacies for safe collection.

Disposing of the bottles yourself means you're protecting your privacy, she noted, as some bottles have labels with personal information on them.

The pharmacies store the medications until they are moved to a central site for disposal.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?