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What You Shouldn't Be Doing With Expired Medications

By KellyRose McAleer - November 24, 2014

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As you grow older, you may find that your medicine cabinet is beginning to get crowded with various medications. This is totally normal – 25% of all seniors in the United States take three or more daily medications, according to HealthDay. However, with so many pills to keep track of it may be easy to miss expiration dates or accidentally take the wrong pill – so here are some ways you can prevent any mishaps.

Play It Smart

It’s hard to believe that medicine can “go bad” like meat does if you set it out too long, but it’s sort of true. Old medication can have ingredients that spoil, as well as lose their potency, which means you won’t be getting the benefits you need. If your heart or diabetes medicine is failing to manage your disease, you could experience the dangerous health affects very soon. This is why it is important to go through your medicine cabinet every so often and make sure that all of your pills and tablets are within their shelf life. Antibiotics only last about two weeks, while some pharmacy capsules can keep for five years. Don’t hang on to leftover pills – by the time you need them again, you can get a prescription for fresh ones.

At the same time, just because your medicine is less potent doesn’t mean you can start playing doctor. Taking two expired pills is not the same as one regular pill – and if the expired pills are each 90% effective, you could be playing with fire. If you want to keep your medicine effective for its full lifetime, stop storing them in the bathroom. It may be more convenient, but the warmth and humidity in the room will only age your medicine. The shelves in your kitchen are dryer and cooler without the threat of shower steam, so store them there.

How to Safely Get Rid of Old Medications

Some state departments, like the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, allow you to donate unneeded prescription drugs to a repository program, although there are plenty of limitations in place. Otherwise, there are different ways to safely dispose of old medications so that no one else can accidentally take them and get hurt. Liquid medications should be poured onto something absorbent, like kitty litter, before being thrown in with your regular trash. To get rid of tablets or capsules, keep them in their bottles but pour some liquid detergent or ammonia in the bottle before you throw it in your garbage to be disposed of with the trash. Also, makes sure that you have removed your name from the prescription bottles. While one method of disposing of medications used to be flushing them down the toilet, it’s best to avoid that. Some environmental organizations have pointed out that trace amounts of the chemicals can appear back in our water supply.