Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet

Man cleaning medicine cabinet
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You’re ready to shake out the rugs and the winter blues. But amidst the spring cleaning, have you considered tidying up your medicine cabinet? If you’ve taken medications during the past year, it’s good to toss out any leftover meds. 

Consider the Risk of Leaving Old Meds in Your Home

Though we don’t always think about it, keeping these medications in our homes does come with certain risks:

Children May Misuse the Drugs

When drugs are within easy reach of kids, there’s a big risk. Unused prescription drugs are the most common source of misuse and diversion in teens — and can endanger them. And when it comes to smaller children, child-proof lids may not be a match for their curiosity. 

You’ll Put Yourself at Risk

If you keep leftover meds, you may have the urge to self-medicate instead of going to a doctor. This is dangerous. After all, some drugs might not be effective after their expiration date. Some drugs may even become toxic when out-of-date.

This is especially critical with essential medications like blood pressure pills or blood sugar-lowering meds. These drugs protect you from heart attack or stroke, two life-threatening events. You should never take a risk with those drugs. 

Dispose of Medications Safely

Most meds can be disposed of carefully in the household trash or by flushing them down the toilet, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In general, it’s best to flush medications that can seriously harm humans and pets with just one exposure (like fentanyl patches) — or take them to your local pharmacy for disposal. 

You can also take your meds to a convenient location on the annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Your pharmacist or local law enforcement agency should have information about these collection centers.

When determining what should stay and what should go, follow these guidelines:

  • Check the expiration dates (prescription and over-the-counter drugs, supplements and ointments) 
  • Discard all unmarked containers 
  • Discard anything that’s changed (if it smells or looks different, toss it) 
  • Follow the one-year rule

To safely dispose of the drugs yourself, here’s what you should do:

  • Add some water so they can dissolve
  • Mix with any material that makes it unappealing for children or animals to eat (cat litter, coffee grounds, sawdust)
  • Never crush tablets or capsules
  • Place medications in a zip-top or sealable plastic bag
  • Scratch out all personal information on prescription labels 
  • Throw away the containers in your household trash

There are some special exceptions. For example, pharmaceutical controlled substances and some other prescription meds must be disposed at secure authorized sites in your community — including a pharmacy, hospital pharmacy or police department.

When in Doubt, Talk to Your Pharmacist

If you’re still unsure, your pharmacist can advise you of the right steps to take with your specific medications. 

Out With the Old and In With the New

Now that you’ve rid your home of the “old,” here’s another suggestion that may come as a surprise: relocate your medications. While it seems counterintuitive — after all, that’s where the medicine cabinets are — your bathroom really isn’t the best place for drugs. The temperature and humidity changes after a shower can affect drug potency. Medications are best kept in a cool, dry place away from children and teens, such as a bedroom drawer or in a closet lock box.

Make It a Priority This Season 

We all have prescription and over-the-counter medications in our homes; they can be a powerful tool for improving our health and keeping us well. But by taking time to “spring clean” these meds, you protect yourself and your loved ones. 

To find AdventHealth pharmacy services near you, use our online locator tool

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