Clean out the cabinet for National Drug Take Back Day

 Do you drink expired milk? If no (which I hope is true), then why would you take expired medications? If your prescription drugs are past the expiration date, taking them can be dangerous.

So, ask yourself: Are expired medications collecting dust in my medicine cabinet?

If yes, it’s time for a clean up and clean out. One option is to take your medications to a collection center near you on one of the two National Drug Take Back Days.

All medications have a “shelf-life” — the length of time the drug will last at maximum effectiveness and safety. Beyond that date, your medication may become weak, which means you’re not getting the full benefit. Worse, expired medications may be unsafe. It’s just not a risk worth taking. Besides, the more medications you have around the higher the risk of abuse, misuse and accidental ingestion. 

Then, you may be feeling conflicted about the idea of protecting the environment vs. having out-of-date medications around.  Want to hear something shocking? Data  from a few years ago suggested that small amounts of pharmaceutical drugs were being found in rivers and drinking water around the country. What does this mean for us? Well, I personally don’t want to question what’s in my drinking water…

So what should you do with medications that are out-of-date?

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines suggest the following:

  • Follow the directions on the label or patient information brochure that comes with the medication. Do not flush your prescription drugs down the toilet unless the label directs you to.
  • Call your city or county government and ask whether your community has a drug take-back program or a central location for proper disposal of prescription drugs. For example, the city of Fort Worth  has a pharmaceutical disposal drop box program at all Fort Worth police stations for the proper disposal of out-of-date and unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

If there are no instructions for disposal and no take-back programs in your community, you can throw your drugs in the trash. But not yet! First take the following steps:

  • Take the medication out of its containers and mix it with used coffee grounds, kitty litter or something else that will make the drug unusable—do NOT crush the pills.
  • Put the whole mixture in a can or sealable bag so they do not leak out.
  • Finally, hide or remove personal information on the empty medicine containers. Cover the labels with permanent marker or scratch them off.

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