When was the last time you cleaned out your medicine cabinet?
If you’ve been putting this task off for a rainy day, no one could blame you. Just like organizing the closet, garage, or the room that was “supposed to be a home office”, organizing your medications isn’t always at the top of your to-do list.
But unlike the others, this task could be life-saving.
Medicine abuse is real and it’s happening in your community. Properly disposing of unneeded medications is one way you can prevent medicine abuse in your own home.
Medication that is not properly disposed of can fall into the wrong hands, making it easier for curious teens or young children to access in the home medicine cabinet.
Proper medication disposal doesn’t have to be difficult. Learn when to dispose of medication and how best to do it.
Why Should You Get Rid of Old, Expired, or Unneeded Meds?
It’s simple: getting rid of medication that you no longer need helps prevent abuse and accidental medication poisoning.
With 190,900 people dying worldwide every year of overdoses, medication abuse is an epidemic that crosses all culture and class divides, affecting families and friends across every border.
Opioids account for the majority of drug-related deaths. In most cases, these deaths are avoidable.
North America has seen a spike in opioid overdose deaths since the onset of the pandemic; roughly 50,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States in 2019, more than double the 2010 figure.
And it’s not only prescription medication that sets people down a path to deadly addiction. Over the counter medications can be deadly and are—far too often—a gateway drug abused by those who later turn to harder, more dangerous medications.
Imagine you have some leftover pills from a bone fracture you suffered several months earlier or a bottle of cough syrup that you haven’t touched since your bout with bronchitis last year.
Would you notice if a couple pills went missing? If the level on the cough syrup bottle changed?
The answer is probably not.
A small change in the quantity of medication that you no longer use can be hard to detect, but can ultimately have a huge impact on the life of the person who steals it.
Be sure to rid yourself – and your loved ones – of the unnecessary hazard posed by leftover and unneeded medicine.
How to Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet
Taking steps to audit your medicine cabinet and disposing of old, unneeded medicines is a safety step that can bring you peace of mind.
What to Toss
Go through your inventory of medicine and set aside medications that are:
Safely disposing of these meds will limit the risk of accidental poisoning and medication abuse.
How to Safely Store What You Keep
You will likely keep some medications. Be sure to store them safely to protect your loved ones.
Ways to keep medication stored safely include the following:
- Combination locking caps can help deter would-be thieves from casually swiping a few pills without you noticing. These are excellent solutions when you have one or two bottles of opioids, benzodiazepine, or other highly addictive rx medications in the home.
- Medication lock boxes can help you keep all of your medications locked up tight in one convenient place. These are an excellent solution if you have multiple prescription medications or a want to lock up both rx and OTC meds in one secured location.
- Store meds up high and out of reach of young children to avoid accidental medication poisoning or unwanted access.
- Keep it out of sight to help ensure that you aren’t making it easy for anyone to find. If you have teens or children frequenting your home, don’t leave medications laying around on bedside tables or in easy-to-access medicine cabinets.
How to Dispose of Meds
Getting rid of medicine isn’t as easy as opening the trash can lid or toilet seat and tossing it in. To safely dispose of old meds, there are certain, specific steps you should follow.
Proper Medication Disposal Method
It’s important to take the right steps when throwing out old meds. If a bottle of unneeded medication is tossed into a garbage can, it can be easily removed and abused.
You’ll want to do the following:
- Gather together all of the unwanted medications that you will be disposing of and remove any labels with personal information, including name and medicine type.
- Take meds to a nearby hospital, pharmacy, or law enforcement agency that will accept your unwanted meds or find a Prescription Drug Take-Back event in your community.
- If you absolutely must throw meds away at home, use a medication disposal kit like DisposeRx.
What NOT to Do With Unwanted Meds
Never throw whole bottles of meds into the trash. That makes stealing as easy as reaching into the trash can.
Also, tossing bottles with your personal information on them — your name, address, and prescription info — can lead to home break-ins and theft if they fall into the wrong hands.
Don’t flush your prescription meds down the toilet. Flushed prescriptions end up in the local supply of drinking water and in lakes, rivers, and oceans – which is bad for everyone.
Taking the proper precautions when disposing of unwanted meds can lead to a safer outcome for everyone, helping prevent accidental poisoning and intentional misuse.
This blog post was updated on Oct. 4, 2021 to reflect updated statistics and to ensure all information is relevant and accurate.