How should pain (fentanyl) medication patches be safely disposed of at home?

Fentanyl patches contain strong medication and are placed on the skin to help relieve pain. The patches should be applied and removed as ordered by the doctor and only on the person for whom they were prescribed.

Pain patches should not be placed in the garbage! There is still medication left in used patches when they are taken off the skin. Used and unused pain patches may cause harm or death to adults, children and pets if they are misused or used by accident. It is very important that you safely store and dispose of all the pain medication patches to avoid harm to others.

When your pain medication patch is due to be changed, remove it from the skin and fold it, pressing the sticky sides together. Immediately dispose of the patch by placing it in:

  • a large empty medicine bottle with a child-proof lid
  • a small lockbox (e.g. fishing tackle or tool box)
  • a medical waste bin called a ‘sharps container’ provided in some parts of Canada by pharmacies and hospitals

Label the container and place it in a safe place that is out of reach of children and pets. Return used patches to the pharmacy or hospital as soon as you are able.

In the past, health care professionals recommended flushing used pain patches down the toilet. Due to growing concerns about medicines in our waste and water systems, this is now discouraged particularly if you have a septic tank or field. Flushing pain patches down the toilet should only be done in situations where reuse, misuse, theft or abuse of the medication in patches is a concern, and it is clearly not possible to return used patches to the pharmacy or hospital within a safe period of time.

If the patches are no longer needed because the person has died or is no longer cared for at home, or if the person’s pain medications have been changed, return the patches to the local pharmacy or hospital as soon as possible.

Do not hesitate to ask your local pharmacist or health care team for advice on how to best dispose of your pain medication patches where you live.