Major need for Canadian families to improve safe handling and disposal of medications at home

National, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, PEI, | Aug 8, 2023

Survey shows a gap between understanding of the harmful effects of accessible medications at home, and action to prevent it

TORONTO, August 8, 2023 – Survey data released today highlights a discrepancy amongst parents of youth and teens in Canada, between the awareness of safe medication practices and the corresponding action around safe handling, storage, and disposal, putting children at risk of substance misuse or poisoning.

The survey, commissioned by Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA) in partnership with Drug Free Kids Canada (DFKC) and conducted by Angus Reid in June 2023, also investigated awareness and actions to prevent harmful environmental impact of improperly disposed medications. The survey was conducted amongst parents of children aged 11-19 in B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, P.E.I and Quebec.

Results showed that the vast majority of parents (85 per cent) do not keep their medications locked away from their children on a regular basis. For the most part, those medications are accessible by children (71 per cent prescription or over-the-counter medications, 82 per cent natural health products).

“Easy access to prescription and over-the-counter medications can pose a serious risk to childrens’ health. Unfortunately, non-medical prescription drug use, hospitalization and preventable deaths from easy medication access at home are not uncommon in Canada,” says Chantal Vallerand, Executive Director, Drug Free Kids Canada. “We encourage parents and guardians to take steps at home to prevent these situations by having open conversations with their children about risks and effects of using medications improperly, and practice safe disposal of any unwanted medications.”

The survey showed that awareness of these issues is fairly high – 87 per cent of parents said they consider safe disposal of unwanted medication to be essential or important, and 77 per cent are aware of the environmental impact of improperly disposed medications. However, only 53 per cent of parents have discussed the safe disposal of medications with their children, and 47 per cent are disposing of medications improperly.

“Awareness is the first step, and we’re glad to see from this survey that Canadian parents consider the safety of medications at home to be very important,” says Terri Drover, Director General, HPSA. “In partnership with DFKC, we urge parents to take this one step further. Make sure your kids are also aware of the harmful effects of using medications that are not prescribed to them, and take advantage of take-back programs to safely dispose of unused or expired medications at your local pharmacy.”

August is National Drug Drop-Off Month in Canada, an initiative to raise awareness of the dangers of youth getting ahold of expired or unused medication, and encourage Canadians to drop these off at their local pharmacy for environmentally safe disposal. To make a safe and easy drop-off, Canadians should empty all dry medication such as pills and tablets into a clear bag, keeping all liquids, creams and inhalers in their original vials, and remove all personal identification. Then, return to their local participating pharmacy using HPSA’s Collection Location Finder.

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Supportive quotes:

“I lost my only child, Jordan, to a drug overdose after he became addicted to pain medication he was prescribed for a back injury. He was only 25 years old and his death shook us to the core. Safe medication practices are such an important preventive measure that can easily be implemented by all families, and hopefully prevent tragedies like we experienced.”

  • Leslie Bain, Co-Founder, Moms Stop the Harm

“As a leader in biosimilar and generic medicines we take pride in providing access to high-quality, affordable medicines to millions of patients, and with that comes a commitment to responsible and sustainable practices with medication. Proper storage and handling of medications are integral to maintaining safe homes, communities, and a healthy environment. We encourage everyone to take advantage of local take-back programs offered by HPSA.

  • Christian Ouellet, Vice President Corporate Affairs, Sandoz Canada

“In recent years we have witnessed a significant increase in toxicological emergencies, particularly among youth aged nine to 13 years old. There is a pressing need for families to educate themselves and their children on the safe storage of medications at home, as well as safe disposal when medications are expired or no longer needed, and consequently prevent problematic use and acute poisonings.”

  • Maude St-Onge, Medical Director, Centre antipoison du Québec

About HPSA
The Health Products Stewardship Association is a national not-for-profit organization representing over 140 brand owners and manufacturers responsible for the effective and safe collection and disposal of unused and expired medications and used medical sharps. On behalf of producers, HPSA administers seven collection programs in four provinces with the support of more than 6,000 community pharmacies acting as collection locations. HPSA’s mandate is also to educate consumers on the responsibility of safely disposing of unwanted medications and medical sharps before they end up in the garbage, poured down sinks, flushed or misused by others. Since its inception, HPSA has collected more than 4,677,811 kg of pharmaceutical products and 3,141,828 kg of medical sharps.

About Drug Free Kids Canada

Drug Free Kids Canada (DFKC) is a private sector, non-profit organization that creates and disseminates drug education and prevention messages with the help of their partners in advertising, research and media. DFK also offers parents valuable tools and practical tips on how to start the conversation with their kids at


n=1,005 parents of children aged 11-19 in BC, Manitoba, Ontario, PEI and Quebec. All parents were members of the online Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, the parent sample would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. The survey was conducted in both English and French.


Quebec pharmaceutical products' take-back program is officially launched. Find a collection location near you.