Add “medicine cabinet” to your spring-cleaning checklist.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 82 percent of American adults take at least one prescription medication and 29 percent take five or more. Add in over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins and supplements and you’re looking at a potential danger zone.
Expired medications and discontinued prescriptions only worsen the situation. Dr. Antoinette Hayek, Marshfield Clinic family medicine physician, suggests cleaning your medicine cabinet every six months.
“Spring cleaning is a great time to begin this routine,” Hayek said. “Then make a note on your calendar to clean your medicine cabinet again in the fall.”
Some communities have take-back programs to help you properly throwaway expired medication or prescriptions you no longer need.
When these options are not available:
- Browse this list for medications that should be flushed. If you don’t find your medication there, continue with steps 2-4.
- Mix medicines you shouldn’t flush with inedible substances like dirt, cat litter or used coffee grounds. Do not crush tablets or capsules.
- Place the mixture in a zip-top container or sealable plastic bag and throw it away.
- Scratch out all personal information from labels on the empty prescription bottles so nothing is readable. Throw the empty bottles in the trash, too.
Five more tips for cleaning your medicine cabinet
- Throw out all expired medications and unused prescriptions. Even though you may not be taking the medications, you don’t know who might try to take them. Consider take-back programs or mix medicines with inedible substances and throw the mixture away.
- Get rid of those expired cosmetics. A product’s safety may expire long before the expiration date if not properly stored. Clumping in mascara is a good sign it should be tossed.
- Dispose of sharps and three-quarters full containers. If you have a three-quarters full sharps disposal container, it is considered filled. Check with local trash removal services or the health department to learn which disposal method is used in your area – drop box, collection site, mail-back or another.
- Double-check your medicine location. Is it safe for teens and children? In some cases, placing medicines where they are out-of-reach or out-of-sight is not enough. Consider purchasing a lock box if you have teenagers and young children in the home.
- Stay up-to-date on product recalls. You can receive notifications on drug recalls, market withdrawals and safety alerts by signing up for emails on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.
Sources: CDC, FDA, NIDA for teens, Stowaway Cosmetics
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