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A Guide To Safely Cleaning Out Your Medicine Cabinet

Studies estimate more than 5,000 people every day are initiated into the world of misusing prescription pain relievers. When asked, most adolescents and young adults reported receiving, or buying, these pills from friends or relatives. Now consider the last time you were prescribed pain medication or opioids like Vicodin, OxyContin, or Percocet. Did you use all of the prescription or is the bottle still sitting in your medicine cabinet?

If you know you have old prescriptions in your cabinet, or it’s been a while since you checked, it’s probably time for you to go through and dispose of expired medications and old prescription drugs.

There’s a catch, though. When you clean out unused prescription and over-the-counter
medications, you can’t just throw them in the trash can and call it good. Here’s how to get
started with safely cleaning out your medicine cabinet.

  1. Prescription Take Back Day. Each year the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) hosts two prescription collection drives, one in the fall and one in the spring. They set up collection sites around the country in an effort to keep controlled prescription drugs, like opioids, from those that may be abusing them. In October of 2020, they collected just under 500 tons across 4,500 collection sites. Keep up to date on the next event and collection sites on their website.
  2. Check every container in your medicine cabinet. If the medicine isn’t in the original container, get rid of it because you can’t confirm what it is. If the drug is expired, get rid of it – it’s not as effective as before the expiration date anyway. If it smells or looks funny, get rid of it, there’s a good chance it went bad. If it’s leftover medicine and there’s a good chance you won’t be using it again, get rid of it.
  3. Dispose of the expired drugs properly. Say you clean out you medicine cabinet and there’s no collection day coming up soon, or you can’t get to a collection site easily, you can still dispose of the medicine properly. First, you need a sealable bag or container, coffee grounds or kitty litter, and the medicine you’re disposing of. Then, you’ll want to break apart of the pills until they’re fairly small pieces, preferably in a controlled area where they won’t fly all over your kitchen or bathroom counter. Mix them in the bag with the coffee grounds or kitty litter, then seal the bag and throw it away. The coffee grounds and kitty litter make it less likely a child will eat the medicine, and also makes it harder for someone to recover the pills by rifling through your trash cans.

Now, let’s also cover some things you should not be doing when cleaning out your medicine
cabinet.

  1. Do NOT flush medicine or prescription drugs down the toilet. Most medications should be mixed with unappealing elements (i.e. dirt, kitty litter or coffee grounds) and placed in a sealed container before throwing away.
  2. Do NOT throw away prescription bottles. Or rather, don’t throw them away without first removing all identifying information and rinsing them out. This will help keep your medical information private.
  3. Do NOT giveaway prescriptions. Typically when medication is prescribed, the doctor is aware of the patients potential health problems, other medications, height and weight. Doctors use this information to choose a medication that is least likely to have adverse effects. When you hand off prescription medications, you don’t know if that person has an unknown medical condition or is taking a seemingly harmless medication that could cause a negative reaction when mixed with what you’re giving them. Have the other person visit a doctor for a prescription so they can do a full check up and make sure the medication won’t be dangerous and is necessary for them.

Now that we’ve gone through how to clean out your medicine cabinets, set aside a time to put
the plan into action!

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse, reach out to talk about how we can help you on your road to recovery.

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