Got unneeded or expired medications? Read this before you toss them

wpid-20140326_142625.jpgShould you keep or toss your expired or unneeded medication? If you toss it, do you know how to dispose of it properly?

The 8th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is just around the corner — on April 26 — so there’s no better time to get the scoop on how to dispose your drugs properly.

Keep or Toss Expired Medication?

If medication is expired, you might not need to toss it. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide has a good run-down of what expiration dates on medications mean.

Here are a few rules of thumb:

• If you need the medication to be 100 percent effective in order to maintain your health, then toss the expired bottle and re-order.

• If the medication has changed color, consistency or odor, throw it away, regardless of expiration.

• Don’t take aspirin if it smells like vinegar. It’s one medication that should be tossed when expired, or sooner if it smells off.

• Store medication in a cool, dry place. Your bathroom medicine cabinet is rarely a good place.

medicationsDisposing of Your Medicine Properly

• Don’t flush your expired or unused medication down the toilet, unless  specifically instructed to do so by the drug label or patient information provided.

Only a small number of drugs carry instructions for flushing. Check out this list from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to see which medicines are recommended for disposal by flushing.

• Get rid of your unused prescription drugs at your local collection site April 26, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

• You can also call your pharmacy to see if it participates in a drug take-back program year-round.

If your over-the-counter or prescription drugs can be disposed of in household trash, be sure to make it less than appealing to children and pets. Place it in a sealed bag or container with coffee grounds or used kitty litter.

For more information on disposing your unused medicines, check out this handy guide from the FDA.

One more quick tip: If you’re throwing away or recycling an empty prescription bottle, be sure to remove labels that contain identifying information.

shawndraShawndra Holmberg writes about small things we can all do to live a healthier lifestyle. And she believes weight loss is a journey not a destination. Like any journey, weight loss has switchbacks, reduced speed zones, blind curves ahead, and a few fast lanes (yes, even on the Big Island). She also believes that a successful journey begins with small steps. Connect with Shawndra on Facebook or check out her blog.

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