Help your drugs help you! Your medications only work as well as they are handled.
Where do you keep your medicines? Are they in different places — some in the medicine cabinet, some in the kitchen, and some in your car, purse or elsewhere? It’s important to keep track of your drugs so you know where they are when you need them.
Pharmacists encourage all of us to clean out our medicine cabinets once a year. Unused or expired drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbals can lose their strength and may be harmful to your health.
Five Safe Storage Tips:
- Store containers in a cool, dry place. Your drugs may lose their potency before the expiration date if they are exposed to oxygen, heat, light or humidity. Don’t leave the cotton plug in the bottle. The cotton draws moisture into the container. Many people store their drugs in the bathroom. This is actually one of the worst places to keep medicine. Bathroom cabinets tend to be warm and humid.
- Take inventory of all your medicines. Make sure that you’re familiar with the drugs and what they do. Talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions about your drugs.
- Make sure that all drugs are clearly labeled and in their original containers, away from other substances that might be mistaken for them.
- Keep drugs out of the reach of children. Keep them secure from teens, reducing the risk of misuse.
- Throw away any drugs you no longer need. Do not share drugs with others.
Why Throw Drugs Away?
Part of taking drugs safely means not using them after their expiration date. Don’t take any chances with a medicine that no longer works the way it’s supposed to.
- Throw away any drug you have not used in the past 12 months.
- Throw away drugs no longer in their original container or that can no longer be identified.
- Throw away medicines that have changed color, odor or taste, regardless of the expiration date. Throw away capsules or tablets that stick together, are harder or softer than normal, or are cracked or chipped.
- Check the expiration date for eye drops and eardrops, too. They may no longer be effective and, worse, could be a breeding ground for bacteria or fungus.
How Do I Throw Drugs Away?
When drugs are thrown away incorrectly, they can harm the environment, pets and/or children. Don’t flush old drugs down the toilet or pour them down a sink or drain.
Follow these easy steps before disposing drugs in the trash:
- Pour the drug into a sealable plastic bag. If the drug is a solid (pill, liquid capsule, etc.), add water to dissolve it.
- Add kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds (or any material that mixes with the drug and make it less appealing for pets and children to eat) to the plastic bag.
- Seal the plastic bag and put it in the regular trash.
- Remove and destroy all identifying personal information (prescription label) from all containers.
If you find a drug and you don’t remember what it is, or you have other drug-related questions, contact the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 (24-hours, toll-free, statewide).