It’s the middle of the night. You’re trying to sleep, but your stuffy nose is determined to make that impossible. So finally, in desperation, you drag yourself out of bed and to your medicine cabinet. Inside the cabinet, you’re met with a slew of bottles, packets, and pill containers: medication that could be from last week or last year. Some containers don’t even have a label, much less an expiry date. And, of course, the one thing you’re looking for – a decongestant – is nowhere to be found. When was the last time you updated your medicine cabinet?
Don’t wait until you’re sick or hurt to face down your medicine cabinet and stock up on over-the-counter medicines and supplies. Instead, enjoy a fresh start for the new year and reset your medicine cabinet.
Why You Should Clean Up Your Medicine Cabinet
There are many reasons why you should regularly clean out your medicine cabinet (every six months!). From disposing of old prescription medications that could fall into the wrong hands to ensuring you have fresh stock of the essentials. Better yet, it saves you money in the long run when you have the exact medicine you need for your ailment and don’t need to pay an added fee to have someone shop for you. Win-win-win.
How to Clean Up Your Medicine Cabinet: A Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: Create a List
Start with a checklist curated to you and your home’s needs. What over-the-counter (OTC) medications does your family use to treat common sicknesses? Here’s a list to get you started with some of the most common OTC medications:
- Ibuprofen or Naproxen Sodium
- Cough medicine
- Eye Drops
- Calcium Carbonate Tablets
- Antacid (such as TUMS)
- Hydrocortisone cream
Take Inventory of Missing or Expired Medication
After you’ve created this list, set it to the side and use it to take note of which items you’re missing and which have expired. Separate any expired medication. (Avoid using expired medicines whenever possible. At best, you won’t experience the full effects you need; at worst, it could make you even sicker. So while you’re in good health, this is the perfect time to throw out the old and bring in the new.)
Additionally, it’s normal for medications to get mismatched over time. However, if you have unmarked containers or cannot identify a prescription medication, throw it out.
Perform Quality Checks on the Remaining Medication
An added benefit to this biannual task is that you can get more familiar with new and old medication, and you can then perform quality tests to make sure any external factors, such as temperature or light, have affected the drug. Here are some changes to watch for as you get familiar with your everyday household prescriptions (start from the top of the list and don’t proceed to the next step if a medication fails the previous step):
- Color changes (including any fading from too much light)
- Unusual smell compared to its typical, fresh smell
- Change in taste of prescription reported by any who have taken it recently
- Unexpected or new side effects observed from recent use
Properly & Safely Discard Expired Medication
Medication should never be thrown directly into the bin or flushed into your water system. The former can be life-threatening for any animals, children, or unstable adults who may come into contact with your discarded medication. The latter can affect the water quality and contamination of your environment. Instead, to avoid any hazards, here are some simple steps to ensure you discard your medication safely.
Start by checking the instruction leaflet for any specific methods of discarding. If there are no set instructions, you can choose one of the following disposal strategies depending on the type of medication concerned:
General Medication: Place medication in a sealable bag. If there are solid medications, add some water so they can dissolve. Then add kitty litter, coffee grounds, sawdust, or any gross-tasting material that mixes well (making it unappealing for children or animals to eat). Finally, seal the bag and put it in the trash.
Prescription Medication: In your community, there should be areas where you can take your unwanted medication. These authorized collection sites may be retail, hospital, clinics, pharmacies, or law enforcement facilities. Be sure to check online for the availability of these locations and their policies on accepting unwanted medication.
Evaluate the Location of Your Medicine Cabinet
To maintain the quality of medicine, it is key to store drugs in a cool, low-light, and relatively dry place. However, the most common place that people store their medications is in the bathroom - a warm, humid, and sometimes bright room. It's understandable since bathroom mirrors are usually constructed with built-in “medicine cabinets”, but it’s not a stable environment for your prescriptions.
Additionally, there are also no tamper-evident means to keep medication out of curious children's hands in such a publicly-used space.
Some alternative medicine cabinet locations would be a kitchen cabinet that is out of the reach of children or a spot in your bedroom closet.
Keep You, Your Family, and Your Prescription Medications Safe and Secure
No matter where you store your medicine, it’s essential to add a final line of protection to any prescription medications – especially painkillers, antidepressants, or stimulants. Keeping these prescriptions free from tampering or theft keeps your family safe, and it ensures the individual who needs the medicine never has to go without because of missing pills and insurance refill periods.
How do you add this final line of protection? If you don’t happen to have a heavy-duty safe lying around or any locking cabinets in appropriate locations, we recommend trying out our Safe Rx Locking Pill Bottle. With this innovative product, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your prescriptions are secure, and any attempts to tamper with them will be obvious.
Take action today to have a fresh start for the new year, implement responsible and routine organizational habits, and protect any controlled substances from misuse with tamper-evident bottles to keep you and your family safe and healthy.