Like old newspapers, old medications can multiply in your home. Even though the directions say to take the whole prescription, you might stop taking the drugs because your doctor changed the prescription, you were allergic to the pills, or you felt better and figured you didn’t need the full prescription.
When combined with a variety of over-the-counter medications, you can have quite a collection of drugs that you should clean out annually when you do your spring cleaning. Do these products have an expiration date? How can you safely get rid of them? In addition, how can you dispose of syringes and needles you or your home health aides use in administering insulin or other medication?
Do Drugs Expire?
Both prescription and OTC drugs have an expiration date, which is commonly believed to indicate that you should not use them after this time. There is a debate as to whether the medications expire on the date printed on the bottle or whether drug companies indicate a shorter lifespan to sell more products. Studies by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the military indicate 90 percent of 100 drugs studied were good to use up to 15 years after expiration, but the potency may diminish over time. Some drugs such as tetracycline, nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics may have a shorter lifespan than others, but for most products, the date is more of a “best if used before” date.
To ensure you are getting the best quality medication, you should make cleaning out your medicine cabinet and removing old drugs part of your spring cleaning. Even if you are willing to take a chance on ingesting older drugs, having unneeded medications in your home increases the risk that they will get into the wrong hands, or that you will inadvertently take the wrong medication.
Properly Disposing Of Drugs And Medical Products
What do you do with all drugs you no longer need or want? The logical answers might be to throw them away or flush them down the toilet, but either approach poses risks.
- Drug addicts can pick bottles of old drugs out of the trash, while pets and children can be harmed with loose pills. Even if no one tampers with your discards, drug residue can leak into landfills and threaten groundwater.
- Other medical products such as used syringes and lancets are sharp and dangerous, as they can pass along blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B.
- Drugs you flush down the toilet can remain in trace amounts even in purified water. The EPA still recommends flushing certain drugs considered to be controlled substances, such as oxycodone, Percocet, and morphine, but the State of New York prohibits flushing any drugs.
In the face of these unsavory alternatives for drug disposal, many communities hold Take-Back Days where they collect prescription medications at public sites. Sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), this process is anonymous and free, while offering you the assurance that the drug disposal will be safe. The program even accepts controlled substances without question.
In 2014, April 26 will be the eighth annual National Prescription Drug Take Back day. Beginning on April 1, initial sites for the program will be announced and added up until the day of the event. Participating in this program will make it easy to responsibly dispose of drugs.
What do you do if you can’t participate in the program on April 26? Here are a few tips:
- Disposing of drugs in the trash is still the safest disposal method. Just make sure to take them out of the bottles and mix them in unsavory garbage such as cat litter or coffee grounds. In New York, follow this procedure even for drugs that the EPA suggests flushing.
- Place sharps in an old detergent bottle or other container with a lid. Local Hospitals are mandated to take back used sharps and dispose of them.
- Watch for additional Take Back days that may be sponsored by local communities or even drugstore chains such as Kinney’s.
- Ask for directions from your local pharmacy on appropriate disposal of drugs
Quality Home Healthcare Services In New York
At SelectCare of New York, we are happy to provide this information to you as a public service. Looking for home healthcare services in New York? Contact us today for a free assessment of your in-home care needs or to arrange service. Just use the contact form on our website or call us at 212-505-3640.