Everything You Need to Know about Properly Storing and Disposing Your Medicines


Where do you keep your medicines? Are they in different places—with some in the medicine cabinet, some in the kitchen, and some in the bedroom or elsewhere? As a parent, grandparent, or family member, it’s important that you organize and keep track of your medicines.

After all, you will want to know where a particular medicine is when you or someone else needs to find it. And you will want to keep your medicines secure so that a child, or a teenager, or even a stranger, does not get into them. That way, you can help prevent an accidental injury, as well as do your part to stop the possible abuse of prescription medicines.

The first step in getting organized is to take a look at all the medicines you have. You should try to do this type of inventory every six months, or at least once a year. Start by checking the expiration date on the bottle— you don’t want to take any chances with a medicine that no longer works the way it’s supposed to.

Also, look for medicines that are discolored, dried out, crumbling, or show other signs that they are past their prime. Check the expiration date for eye drops and ear drops, too. They may no longer be effective and, worse, could be a breeding ground for bacteria or fungi.

Find a cool, dry area

Now that you’ve identified the medicines you want to keep, the next step is to find a safe place to keep them. You’ll want to store your medicine in an area that is convenient, but is also cool and dry – since heat and humidity can damage medicines. That’s why a bathroom is not a good place to keep your medicines unless you are able to keep the room well ventilated.

Tips on Safe Storage of Your Prescription Medicines

Lock up your medicines.

If there are children around, you might want to find an area where you can lock up your medicines. A cabinet or a drawer with a lock on it would work. It’s also an excellent idea to lock up any controlled substances that have been prescribed for you.

Be smarter about storing and using your medicines.

Keep your medicines separate from those of your spouse or other family members (for instance, on a different shelf or at least on a separate side of a shelf). This will make it less likely that you take the wrong ones by mistake.

You may find it helpful to have a counter top or tabletop near where you keep your medicine so you can open the bottle with it resting on the flat surface. In case you drop your pill, it will land on the tabletop and not be lost down the drain or on the floor.

Never take medicines in the dark.

Good lighting near where you store your medicines will help you make sure you are taking the right medicine.

Keep the medicine in the bottle it came in. The amber color protects the medicine from light. You will also have the information right there about what the medicine is and how often to take it. The label will also have the phone number of the pharmacy so you can call when it is time for a refill.

Proper Disposal of Prescription Medicines

Federal Guidelines encourage consumers to:

Take unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers and throw them in the trash.

Mixing prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and putting them in impermeable, non-descriptive containers, such as empty cans or resealable bags, will further ensure the drugs are not diverted.

Flush prescription medications down the toilet only if the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs doing so.

Take advantage of community pharmaceutical take-back programs or community solid waste programs. Where these programs exist, they are a good way to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals.

Before you choose to dispose of a medication, how can you tell if it is still good or not? If you look on your prescription label, you will find an expiration date. Some medications are only good for a certain amount of time from opening date. For instance, some liquid antibiotics are only good for 10 days once they have been mixed.

Many times, however, you will see that your prescription expires one year from the date it was filled. This date ensures that the drug is safe and effective during its intended shelf life. As your medication sits in that vial, it loses potency over time; this can affect how well your medication is working.

It’s true that many medications do last well past their expiration dates, but if you are taking a drug such as a heart medication, you surely want that drug to do its job.


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