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Why It’s Time to Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet

While doing spring cleaning this year, don't forget about your medicine cabinet. Expired medications or those you don't use have no place in your home. Medications may get into the wrong hands or can be misused. Expired drugs may be less effective or even harmful if they are taken.

Many people who misuse prescription drugs, especially painkillers, get them from the medicine cabinets of family and friends. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.2 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs and the majority of these drugs were obtained in this way.

Here are some tips for cleaning out your medicine cabinet:

  • Check expiration dates on all over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Expired products lose effectiveness and should be discarded.
  • Toss products that aren't sealed properly. Exposure to air, moisture and heat may have altered the effectiveness or made the product dangerous to use.
  • Get rid of all medications you no longer need, even if they haven't expired.

Not only should you make it a regular habit of going through the medicine in your home, but it's important to know how to dispose of it safely. How should you get rid of unneeded medication?

  • National Take-Back Day is organized by the DEA to encourage people to get unneeded medications out of homes where they may be misused. You can safely and conveniently drop off prescription drugs at designated locations throughout the country. To find a location near you, visit In 2018, over 900,000 pounds of medication were collected during this annual event.
  • Some medications may be flushed down the toilet, but check first with your local community and the drug label to see if it is safe to do so.
  • If you are going to throw medication in the trash, remove it from the original container and mix with kitty litter, coffee grounds or another substance that will stop people from picking it out of the garbage. Place the mixture in a sealed bag.
  • Never share your prescription drugs with someone else. Your prescription may be harmful to other people and they should visit their own doctors if they need medication.

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Date Last Reviewed: February 15, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD
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