Open most medicine cabinets and you’ll see a mishmash of prescription drugs, pain relievers, over-the-counter medications, first-aid items and anything else that needed an easy-to-reach home. But there are some items—like expired medications or prescription drugs you don’t need anymore—that just aren’t safe to keep around.
Here’s what to keep in mind as you clean and organize your medicine cabinet:
- Children and teens need protection. Easy access to opioid medications and controlled substances can open the door to more serious drug issues, including opioid abuse and overdose. In fact, drug overdose in teens ages 15 to 19 increased 19 percent from 2014 to 2015. Because of this, it’s important to move all prescription medications to a location where young people will not have easy access, like a locked drawer or medicine lock-box.
- Medications have expiration dates. Many drugs have expiration dates printed on the packaging. If any medications (including both prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins or supplements in your cabinet are expired, dispose of them correctly. Over time, expired medications can change in chemical composition or even experience bacterial growth, which can lead to serious illness or antibiotic resistance.
- Drugs need to be stored properly. Some medications need to be stored in a refrigerator. Others should be kept in a dry place at room temperature with minimal exposure to light. Otherwise, you run the risk of taking a medication with lower potency. In addition to locked locations, you can also store your medications in a kitchen cabinet (if no children are in the household) or another shaded area of the home.
- Check for recalls. Every now and then, the Food and Drug Administration releases a drug recall. This can happen when a medication is contaminated or is considered a health hazard. In these cases, you will need to clear the medication out of your cabinet. To find out if your specific medication is part of a recall, visit this site.
Twice per year, the Drug Enforcement Administration hosts National Prescription Drug Take Back Day for safe disposal of medications. The next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day occurs in April 2018. If you need to dispose of your prescription medications before then, find your local controlled substance public disposal location here.
Unless your medication states you can do so, never flush prescriptions down the toilet. If you choose to dispose of a medication in the trash, crush it and mix with a powdery substance, like used coffee grounds or kitty litter, so it can’t be easily retrieved from the garbage can (and it will cause less of an impact on the environment than flushing it down the toilet).
Find out more ways to protect your family from the dangers of prescription abuse by visiting these blogs:
- Tips for Prescription Safety, Storage and Disposal
- The Ultimate Prescription Safety Guide for Caregivers
- Do You Know Enough About Giving Children Medication?
Photo Credit: osseous