Many Americans use over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements each and every day. How these medications are taken and where they are stored can have a direct impact on how effective – or ineffective – these medications will be. While some medications will come with outlined instructions dictating how that specific medication should be stored and disposed of, below we have assembled a list with some helpful tips on how to safely store and properly dispose of over-the-counter medications.
Where to Store Medications:
Contrary to popular beliefs, storing medications in a bathroom medicine cabinet is not a good idea. Although many people may find this shocking since storing their medications in a bathroom medicine cabinet has traditionally been thought to be the standard practice, doing so may actually harm the medications. The heat, humidity, and moisture from showering, bathing, and using the sink can actually cause many medications to start to deteriorate, lose their potency, and go bad before they reach their expiration date.
Another popular place that many people store their medications is a kitchen cabinet, and for some reason the cabinet above the stove seems to be a popular choice, although it may not be the wisest. Medications should not be stored near heat sources, such as stoves, toasters, or up against a refrigerator. The heat can cause some medications to melt, activate prematurely, and can easily damage the protective encasing for many types of pills and capsules.
Medications also shouldn’t be kept in places like the glove box in the car, which can quickly reach extreme hot (and cold) temperatures and can leave medications exposed to direct sunlight, all of which can damage medications.
Medications should also be kept in their original containers and packaging. Medications stored in other containers can easily be mistaken for the wrong medication, taken in the wrong doses, or taken by the wrong person. Also, once the protective seal (like the piece of foil over the top of medication bottles) has been broken and/or removed, the cotton ball should be removed from the container and discarded. Once the seal is broken the cotton will start drawing moisture from the air into the medicine bottle, which can cause the medications to deteriorate quicker.
Keeping Medications Out of Reach from Children and Pets:
As always, wherever you decide to store your medications, it is important to make sure that they are kept in a location that is out of reach of children and pets. According to the CDC, an excess of 60,000 young children are brought to emergency rooms each year because they took some form of medicines (or vitamins and supplements) while their caregiver wasn't paying attention.
The best way to ensure that your medications are stored safely is to lock them up. This ensures that they can’t be accidently taken by children or pets, or stolen by teens to share at “pharm parties” (which is a newer and potentially deadly emerging trend; and whole other topic for another day).
Some good places to store medications include, but aren’t limited to:
*Assembled together in a shoebox, or some other form of storage container, and placed in a dresser drawer or desk drawer
*On a closet shelf that is out of reach of children and pets
*In a kitchen cabinet that is away from heat sources
*In a locked box (such as a repurposed tool box or tackle box), or a locked safe
Properly Disposing of Unused and Unwanted Medications:
Damaged and expired medications should be thrown out (in accordance with local regulations for discarding unused/unwanted medications or by using the Drug Buster Liquid Medication Disposal System
). Medications should not be flushed down the toilet or sink (unless the product labeling clearly instructs you to do so); flushing medications can cause the medication to seep into our water supply and contaminate it. If throwing medication in the trash they should be mixed with other materials that will ruin the medications and make them undesirable to children, pets, and drug seekers who may go through the trash. Coffee grounds, kitty litter, and old leftovers are all good examples. Unused medications can also be brought to many pharmacies, who will properly dispose of them for you, and usually at no extra costs to you. In addition, in an effort to crack down on the improper use and disposal of medications many counties and certain agencies have started implanting “drug give back” programs, which allow consumers to bring their medications to a specific location for drop off and then the agency will properly dispose of them for you.