It’s time for spring cleaning. We wash the windows and clean out the closets, but there is one place we might overlook, our medicine cabinet. Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day falls on the third Friday in April. This year is it on April 17. While we are spending more time at home, this is the perfect opportunity to clean out our medicine cabinet.

We all have old prescription bottles or medicine that are just collecting dust and may cause us more harm than we realize. According to a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.4 million Americans abuse controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that a majority were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.

We need to dispose of leftover and unused medications that can lead to misuse, addiction, poisoning or death. Seventy percent of opioid dependence, overdoses, and deaths begin with leftover drugs in the medicine cabinet. Additionally, some expired medications may become toxic.

During National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day, do your part keep your home safe and fight drug addiction. Review medications wherever you keep them. Safely dispose of leftovers from any surgery or illness or those that have expired.

How do you dispose of the medications?

Environmental studies have shown that flushing your medications will flow into our water supply, negatively impacting the fish we eat and the water we drink. When discarded in the trash, medications contaminate the soil.

Here are six tips on how to clean out your medicine cabinet and safely dispose of your medications and check out #CleanOutMedsDay!

  • 1

    Check the Dates

    Make sure to examine everything in the medicine cabinet, including ointments, supplements and vitamins. Get rid of any item that is beyond the expiration date. Many medications lose their effectiveness after the expiration date. Some may even be toxic.

  • 2

    Follow the One-Year Cut Off Rule

    Get rid of any prescription medications that are more than one year old. 

  • 3

    Throw Out Any Items that Have Changed Color, Smell or Taste

    Many times colors that have faded in medications are due to them being exposed to too much light or air.  

  • 4

    Discard Unmarked Containers

    If something is no longer in its original container and cannot be identified, get rid of it. In the future, we should try to always keep medications in their original containers so that we can easily recognize every medication. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for creams.

  • 5

    Safely Dispose of Medications

    The best option for disposing of medication is your local pharmacy, police department or Drug Enforcement Agency. They are often willing to accept your medications to dispose of them in a safe manner. Call ahead to be sure of the guidelines and regulations.

    Due to the potential harm to the environment, it is not recommended to simply throw out medication or flush them down the toilet. Here are a few ideas on what to do.  Place all medication in a sealable bag. If there are solid medications, add some water so they can dissolve.  Add kitty litter, coffee grounds, saw dust, or any material that mixes well and makes it unappealing for children or animals to eat. Seal the bag and put it in the trash.

    Site-of-use or at-home drug disposal solutions offer a safe and eco-friendly way of ridding your home of medications. You can find a site-of-use or in-home disposal solution online. Options could be DisposeRx, which provides a safe and eco-friendly way to dispose of medications.

  • 6

    Consider Relocating the Medicine Cabinet

    If the medicine cabinet is in the bathroom that may not be the best place to store medication. The temperature and humidity changes that take place while the shower is running can lower the potency of your medication. Medications should be kept in a cool dry place, away from children. We should consider a drawer in our dresser or a lock box in the closet.