Time for a Medicine Cabinet Cleanout?

Is your medicine cabinet habouring long-since expired prescriptions? Here's how to store and dispose of them safely

Credit: zokah_921

Avoid potential hazards by cleaning out your medicine cabinet regularly

When was the last time you cleaned out your medicine cabinet – and checked the expiry dates on the medications you keep around the house?

The effectiveness of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications decreases with age, and letting extra medications build up in your medicine cabinet can contribute to hazards such as drug abuse and accidental poisonings. 

Proper management of all medications is vital to your family’s health and safety. Take these important basic steps:

  • Safe storage: Medications should be stored in a locked cabinet, out of reach of children, and in a cool, dry spot (many medicine cabinets are in the bathroom, which tends to be warm and humid – an environment that can contribute to the rapid deterioration of tablets and capsules). All drugs should be stored in their original and properly labelled containers.
  • Check expiration dates: Choose a specific day twice a year to go through all your prescription and non-prescription drugs and remove those that have passed their expiry date. Regardless of the expiry date, medication that has changed colour, or pills or capsules that are stuck together, split or cracked should also be discarded.

  • Safe disposal: Do not flush unwanted or expired medications down the toilet or put them in the garbage. This only contributes to the contamination of water and landfills. Also, throwing pills into the garbage leaves children and pets at serious risk of accidental ingestion. In most provinces, Canadians can take their unwanted pharmaceuticals to participating community pharmacies, where items are collected and incinerated at no cost to the consumer. Most take-back programs accept prescription and non-prescription drugs, herbal products, vitamin and mineral supplements and throat lozenges. Consult your pharmacist about your local take-back program or go to the Post Consumer Pharmaceutical Stewardship Association.

Note: Misuse, abuse or redirection of household prescription medications is a serious and not uncommon concern. Be aware.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.