Proper Storage and Disposal of Medications at Home

July 12, 2023

Storing medicines carefully as well as proper disposal of any expired drugs is important, yet many people leave medications out, or keep them in multiple places.

Leaving them out or in non-secure places creates safety risks, especially if children can get at them. It also increases the chances of you or your family members getting medications mixed up and taking the wrong ones.

When over-the-counter and prescription drugs expire, they lose their effectiveness and can even become dangerous as their chemical composition changes. Expired antibiotics lose strength and cannot fully fight infections, and can cause antibiotic resistance. Proper medication storage is important as it allows the medicine to remain at full strength and fulfill its purpose.

Safe Storage and Disposal


To keep medications out of the wrong hands, keep them in a secure location, preferably in a locked medicine cabinet, or if they need to be refrigerated, tucked away safely.

Storing medications properly ensures they stay safe and effective up to their expiry date. Proper storage helps ensure the effectiveness of the medication and prevents possible poisoning accidents. Storage requirements vary by medication, so always check the instructions and speak to your pharmacist. For example, some need to be refrigerated, some kept at room temperature, while other medications need to be kept away from light, or have other requirements.

In general, medications should be kept in a cool, dry place, so the bathroom may not be the best place to keep your over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs. Take any cotton ball out of the medicine bottle after opening, as it can draw moisture in.

Keep medication out of the reach of children, preferably in medicine cabinets or drawers with locks.

Keep your prescription medicine in the original medicine packaging with the label on, and the lids of pill bottles tightly closed. If you use blister packages or organizers, be sure to keep the information leaflets handy, so you have all the information you need. Also, keep the medications for each family member separate, so the wrong medications aren't taken by mistake. Good lighting will help, too.

Don't mix different medicines in the same bottle to save room.

Medications Safe Storage

Painkillers and Special Medications

Pain-relief medications, analgesics, opioids and other narcotics, ADHD medications, and others are dangerous for others to use but may be specifically sought out and stolen. These need extra precautions.

Always store pain medication in the original containers with child-proof lids, out of the sight of children, teenagers, and strangers, and in a secure, locked place.

If you have a skin patch, you still need to keep it away from others. Medication from the patches can be absorbed even after use, before disposing of them. Fold any used ones in half to seal them.

Disposal of Unused or Expired Medications

Know what medications you have, and safely dispose of any expired drugs.


Do an inventory every six months to check for expired and unused medicines. Check expiration dates on all medications, including eye and ear drops, to avoid health risks. Regardless of the date, if any medicines are dried, discolored, or otherwise changed, dispose of them. Always dispose of any expired, contaminated, deteriorated, unwanted and unused medication that you find.

Safe Disposal

Always discard leftover prescription medicines, and don't use them later on yourself or others for future illnesses. Although the symptoms may seem similar, the medicine might not be appropriate and will be ineffective or worsen your condition.

Never flush medications away.

Not disposing of medications properly is a serious problem. Certain medications may be intentionally taken, or people and animals may accidentally ingest them, which can make them severely ill. Throwing or flushing medications away also has a negative impact on the environment.

Take-back Programs

Unused or expired prescription drugs, natural health products, and over-the-counter medications can all be taken to your local pharmacist to properly dispose of. Some municipalities and local police forces also offer take-back programs to dispose of unused and expired drugs and health products we have in our homes. If there aren't any take-back programs near you, ask your pharmacy for help.

Take back Programs

If you have any questions about safe disposal or storage of your medicines, contact the team at Stayner Family Pharmacy. We take your safety seriously, and would be happy to help.

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