If You’re Getting Ready to Start Your Spring Cleaning, Don’t Forget Your Medicine Cabinet

Many people welcome spring and nice, warm weather by cleaning out their homes and letting in some fresh air. But many of us overlook an important place when we’re tidying: the medicine cabinet. In addition to getting rid of things you no longer use – like that moisturizer you decided you didn’t like, or an old razor you no longer use – getting rid of prescription and over-the-counter medications that you no longer need or have long since expired can be a load off your mind.

You might not see the harm in taking a medication that’s slightly out of date if the drug will still have some effect on your current ailment. For example, if it’s a bottle of aspirin that expired a month ago, you’re probably right. But here are just some of the problems with keeping expired medications in the mix:

  • Some medications undergo chemical changes over time that may make them dangerous or ineffective. Unless you’re a medical professional, there’s no real way for you to be sure they’re safe. Better to just throw them out.
  • Old medications – which neither your doctor nor your pharmacist know you’re still taking – may produce harmful effects with other drugs you’re currently on. For instance, if you’re on a medication that has a side effect of lowering your blood pressure, and the expired medication has the same side effect, this could cause serious problems.
  • If the medication is something that could potentially be life-saving, such as nitroglycerin or insulin, you might delay buying new medication because you still “have some left”—but because it’s expired, the medication may not perform the way it’s supposed to. The results can be devastating.  

Springtime is also a good time to take an inventory of the drugs you’re currently taking – both prescription and over-the-counter. The more drugs you take, the greater the chance of an adverse interaction. By taking stock of what you’re taking and sharing that information with your doctor or pharmacist, you lower the risk of a dangerous reaction.

Lastly, be sure to dispose of expired or unneeded medications safely. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency recommend that consumers NOT flush medications down the toilet, as this can have harmful effects on our ecosystem.

Find out if your community or pharmacist has a drug take-back program—big-name drug stores like CVS and Walgreens offer prescription take-back in many communities. If not, take the unwanted medication out of its container, put it in a sealable bag or disposable container and put in the trash.

Categories: Home health, Senior Health