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Decluttering: Discard Old Medicines & Renew Prescriptions

Decluttering: Discard Old Medicines & Renew Prescriptions
Kevin Cleary

Clutter, in all its definitions, is bad. It can lead to things getting lost, forgotten, or even get into the wrong hands. While this may apply to many things, old medications also fall under the shadow of clutter in the home. Medication does come with an expiration date and should be obeyed. Drug manufacturers place expiration dates for the sole purpose of letting the user know that is the last day they can guarantee 100% potency of their medication. Clutter in the medicine chest can often lead to forgotten prescriptions or missed doses. We here at HPFY would like to shine a light on the potential hazards that comes with clutter and some steps to avoiding potential issues.

Prescriptions Do Expire

Every prescription you have from the doctor or pick up at the pharmacy does have a shelf life. Now, I don’t mean the number of refills, but a specific date that the medicine should be used by. This is often 12-16 months after the drug has been manufactured. This is not necessarily for only prescription medicines, but for over-the-counter drugs also. Pharmaceutical drugs do begin losing efficacy/potency over time and over-the-counter drugs also can degrade their efficacy the longer they sit around. More importantly, the question begs to be asked: Is it safe to take expired medications? As you can imagine, manufacturers won’t make recommendations on the stability of their drugs past any expiration date for liability reasons. These “expiration dates” can be arbitrary and USP (United States Pharmacopeia), who set standards for pharmaceutical quality, suggests using the term “beyond used dates” for medicine that has surpassed the manufacturer’s expiration date. This doesn’t necessarily answer the question is it safe? A good rule of thumb is if you require 100% potency of the drug you take and it is past the expiration date or beyond used dates, it is far wiser to discard the old medication and get a refill.

Graham Field Pill Organizer/Medicine Chest Apex Seven Day MediPlanner Pill Organizer

Disposing of Expired Medication

Okay, so now you do a quick inventory of the medicine chest and find out of date medication: what’s next? Disposing of medication, especially controlled substances, needs to be done properly. Anything that needs to be disposed of should follow the recommendations set forth by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They suggest:

  • Search out a community “takeback” program, if available.
  • Bring expired medication to an authorized Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) location. Information can be found on their website.
  • If either of these is not options, take the medication out of its original packaging and mix it with coffee grounds, kitty litter, or even dirt and seal it in a container or plastic bag and throw it away.

Also, check the packaging to see if there are any specific disposal directions listed for unused and beyond used date medications. Flushing medication down the toilet is also a frowned-upon practice, especially when it might end up in a local water source. Any unused opioids should never be kept around past their beyond the used date. You could also inquire with the local police department for the disposal of these dangerous painkillers. Many teens have pilfered some of their parent's unused OxyContin and other opioid painkillers. We have all heard recent news reports about the opioid problem in our country and properly disposing of unused/expired medications can help. Make it a regular practice to go through your medicine chest and clear the clutter so you can have the most up-to-date, effective medication you need.


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.

HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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