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Spring cleaning is for medicine cabinets, too!

In many households, spring cleaning is an annual event, and anyone who takes medication should use the opportunity to clean out their medicine cabinets. Whether they’re expired, your doctor told you to stop taking them, or ones you have not used and do not plan to use, medications lying around your home may lead to confusion about what to take.

Unwanted medications are also a public safety issue! They increase the risk of accidental poisoning, misuse, and overdose. Properly disposing of unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications can save lives and protect our environment.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and is held at thousands of convenient locations across the country. Take Back Day provides an opportunity to turn in unwanted medications safely and anonymously. Locations include police and sheriff’s offices, municipal buildings, pharmacies and other health care settings. You can search for participating locations on the official Take Back Day website.

Medications that are collected during Prescription Drug Take Back Day are typically incinerated. This is more environmentally friendly than flushing medications down the toilet or throwing them away in your trash.

If no Take Back Day locations are options for you, check the medicine label for proper disposal instructions or talk to a pharmacist about disposal options your local pharmacy may offer. If you have no choice but to dispose of medications in your household trash, follow these simple steps:

  1. Remove the medicine from its original container and mix it with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter.
  2. Place the mixture in a sealable bag or container to prevent medicine from getting out.
  3. Drop the bag or sealed container with the medication mixture (and the empty medication bottles with labels removed) in the trash.

Don’t forget to rethink medication storage

Disposal is important, but safely storing the medications you keep is a priority, too. Keep your medicines in cool, dry place that is convenient for you. The area should be cool and dry since heat and humidity can damage them or make them less effective. (The bathroom is not a good place to keep your medicines.) Prevent young children and pets from accessing the storage area. They may put what they find in their mouths! Lastly, separate the medications belonging to different members of your household. Using separate shelves or drawers is an easy solution, and makes it less likely that you take the wrong ones by mistake.

Learn more about the relationship between medications and falls prevention by watching our Falls Prevention Awareness Day video from last year. Have a safe and healthy spring!

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Kathleen Cameron

About Kathleen Cameron, BSPharm, MPH

Kathleen A. Cameron, BSPharm, MPH, Senior Director of NCOA's Center for Healthy Aging.
Ms. Cameron has more than 25 years of experience in the health care field as a pharmacist, researcher and program director focusing on falls prevention, geriatric pharmacotherapy, mental health, long-term services and supports, and caregiving. She is also the Senior Director of the National Falls Prevention Resource Center.

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