The new year is upon us. I hope your 2015 has been full of happy memories and joyous occasions. Now, as we move on to 2016, I have a New Year’s challenge for you. I challenge you to take only in-date medications.
WHY In-Date Medications?
Sometimes we think expiration dates are just there to make us keep buying new medicine. But, in reality, there are TWO big reasons expiration dates are important. Extensive research is done when medications are created to determine for how long they are effective and safe. This date, when either changes, is the expiration date.
Past this date the medicine will not work as well. If you take a medicine to control your blood sugar that is expired, it might not lower your blood sugar as much. If you take an expired medicine for pain, your pain might not go away.
The other risk is a safety risk. Chemicals change over time. Have you ever opened an outdated bottle of aspirin? It smells like vinegar. That is because it changes into new chemicals over time, one of which is vinegar. Other medicines change into chemicals that can be extremely dangerous.
It is not worth the risk.
Go through ALL of the medications in your house, cars, purse, etc. Check the expiration date on each one. If it is expired, put it in your discard pile. (But don’t throw it in the trash just yet, there are two more steps).
Next remove all labels that contain information about you or your family. Shred or cut up the label. If you can’t get the label off, scratch out your name and prescription number at least. This is one of many forms of possible identity theft.
Now comes the tricky part. What do you do with all of these medications? There is not an easy answer. In order of ‘best options’, dispose of them in one of these ways:
- Take them to a ‘Medication Take-Back’ event sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Or call the DEA’s Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539
- Talk with your local pharmacist to see if you pharmacy can dispose of medication. Or, your pharmacist should know who in your community does dispose of medication, if there is a source.
- Dump them out of their bottles and put with kitty litter, coffee grounds, or something else that you can’t eat. Then, seal the container and put it UNMARKED in a garbage bag and out with the garbage.
- DO NOT flush the medication or put it down the drain. This leads to it reaching the water supply. This used to be encouraged, and now many medicines/hormones/chemicals have been found in the water supply.
- Ultimately, putting them in the trash can lead to them being in the water supply as the trash breaks down and leaches into the ground.
- This is why an official ‘take-back’ event is the safest option.
As you are sorting out your expired medicines, keep a list of those you use so you can replace them. If it is a prescription medicine, your can see on the label if there are refills remaining. Note, for non-controlled medicines, there are usually available for up to a year. For controlled medicines, the time might be shorter. If you are beyond that time, and you still need the medicine, call your physician to inquire about another prescription.
As you are replacing medicine, over-the-counter medicine, vitamins, and supplements, know that generic versions are just as good as brand. I purchase generic for my family. They have been carefully tested and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration to assure they contain the same key ingredients and work the same.
Here at the end of the year, if you have a health-savings account, check the rules to see if you can use that to replace your expired medicines.
This is an important step in your New-Year’s fresh start. It is important for your safety and the safety of your family.
Happy New Year!
For more information about expired medication and proper disposal, contact us at www.medsmash.com.
For further application, check out my personal blog.
Image Source: National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services