Time to Spring Clean … Your Medicine Cabinet

Published: March 10, 2021

Time to Spring Clean … Your Medicine Cabinet

It’s time for the annual spring cleaning ritual, and what better place to start than your medicine cabinet? Besides getting rid of things you no longer use—like that six-year-old box of teeth-whitening strips and half-used bottles of travel-sized shampoo—you should get rid of prescription and over-the-counter medications that have expired.

Many people don’t see the harm in taking a medication that is slightly out of date, assuming that the drug will still have some effect on their current ailment. And if it’s a bottle of aspirin that expired a month ago, they’re probably right. But here are just some of the problems with keeping expired medications around the home:

Some medications undergo chemical changes over time, which may actually make them dangerous. The problem is that no one really knows what happens to drugs over time. Better to be safe and throw them out.

Expired medications—which neither your doctor nor your pharmacist knows you’re 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, and you delay buying new medication because you still “have some left,” the medication may not perform the way it’s supposed to, with potentially dangerous results.

And while you’re at it, this is a good time to take an inventory of the drugs you’re taking—both prescription and over-the-counter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report “Health, United States, 2019,” nearly half of all Americans take one or more prescription medications. For people aged 65 and older, that number reaches nearly 90%. Over 40% of people in that age group take five or more prescription medications daily. The more drugs you take, the greater the chance of adverse interactions. By taking stock of what you’re taking and sharing that information with your doctor or pharmacist, you lower the risk of a dangerous situation.

Local disposal site
Finally, be sure to dispose of expired and no-longer-used medications safely. You’ll find a free medication disposal site at Central Washington Family Medicine’s clinic at 1806 W. Lincoln Ave in Yakima. It’s open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency do not recommend that consumers flush medications down the toilet, as this can have harmful effects on our ecosystem. So if you can’t get to a disposal site, take the unwanted medication out of its container, put it in a sealable bag or disposable container and put in the trash. The DEA suggests mixing pills with coffee grounds or kitty litter to make them undesirable to substance abusers. Remove any personal/private information from the pill bottle and place that in the trash as well.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise