Best New Year's Resolution From Your Pharmacist: Toss Old Medication

Published Online: Tuesday, January 3, 2012
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As the New Year begins, and healthy resolutions are made, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) is encouraging Americans to clean out their medicine cabinets. Pharmacists recommend patients clean out their medicine cabinets once a year to dispose of all the unused and expired medications that accumulated over the previous year. This once a year tradition will help keep everyone safe and healthy. Unused medications have the potential to be abused and misused and expired medications can lose their potency thus reducing or providing no value to the condition being treated.

"Over the course of a year, we can accumulate many medications to treat colds, headaches and infections, as well as more serious conditions," stated Thomas Menighan, CEO and executive vice president, APhA. "These medications play an important role in helping patients obtain better health and wellness, but if we do not store and dispose of them properly, they can become a hazard. When they fall into the wrong hands, these medications have the potential to be abused, and if improperly disposed of, they can harm wildlife, pets and other people. Make sure to talk to your pharmacist about the best storage of medications in your household, the length of time a medication should be kept and the efficacy of that medication past its expiration date."

Prescription drug abuse is the Nation's fastest-growing drug problem. While there has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs like cocaine, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), show that nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over, who used drugs for the first time in 2009, began by using a prescription drugs non-medically. The National Institute on Drug Abuse tells us that every day in the U.S., an average of 2,000 teenagers use prescription medication for the first time without a physician's guidance. The same NSDUH survey found that over 70% of people who abused prescription pain relievers got them from friends or relatives.

Tips for Storing and Cleaning Out Your Medicine Cabinet or Other Medication Storage Areas:
  • Medications should be stored in a secured area—up, away and out of site of children and teenagers—that has low humidity, a stable temperature and adequate lighting.
  • Check the date on everything in your medicine cabinet and dispose of anything that has passed the expiration date.
  • Dispose of anything you have not used in the past 12 months or that you no longer need. Do not share medications with others.
  • Dispose of medicines that are no longer in their original container, have changed color or odor, or that can no longer be identified.
  • Do not flush unused or expired medications anddo not pour them down a sink or drain. They should be disposed of properly in the household trash or through your community's medication disposal program, when available. Talk to your pharmacist or visit www.smarxtdisposal.net for tips on how to properly dispose of your medications.
 
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