Dangers of Expired Medication

Times are tough and money is tight all over. It’s tempting to save unused medications past their expiration date; Don't be tempted to use expired medication! Find out how to dispose of unused medicine properlyhowever, time affects medications as much as it does food. An expired medication may become toxic over time due to degradation of chemical components or even growth of bacteria and mold. Using these expired medications can create more problems than those they are meant to treat. It’s important for you and your family to be aware of how to properly store and dispose of medications.

Keep your medications safe by storing them properly:

  • Keep out of direct sunlight
  • Keep at room temperature or, if appropriate, refrigerate. Check the guidelines on the package or the pharmacist’s medication print information sheet.
  • Keep medications dry. Protect them from high humidity.

It is critical that expired and unused medication is disposed of safely. DO NOT dispose of medications in the trash or flush them down a toilet. This pollutes landfill and may contaminate ground water and wildlife.

To safely dispose of expired and unused medications:

  • Bring them to your local pharmacy. Most pharmacies have drug take-back programs.
  • Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service (see the blue pages in a phone book) to determine if a take-back program is available in your community.

For safe disposal, also be sure to avoid ingestion of the medication by anyone other than the prescribed individual. One way to do this is to remove the medication from its original container and mix with kitty litter or other undesirable contents in an indiscrete container. By keeping track of expiration dates on your medications you will be protecting yourself as well as others around you. If you are unsure about the expiration on your prescription, contact your local pharmacist for more information.

Get more information on how to dispose of expired and unused medications from the FDA.

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