So, when you opened your medicine cabinet, did an avalanche of pill bottles, ointment tubes, and partially used packages of gelcaps came clattering out? I’m not just talking about Metamucil, or that ointment you bought when you blew an ass gasket. No, I am referring to those unfinished antibiotics (contrary to the doctor’s instructions) and sticky bottles of over-the-counter cough syrups, not to mention an assortment of capsules, tablets, caplets, and gelcaps. And those that are not expired are for ailments long since cured. They’re cluttering your shelves because you don’t know what to do with them. Continue reading, and you’ll know for sure.

Best Ways to Get Rid of Medicine

Assess the expired medicines situation.

You have unused prescriptions and expired OTC medicines that you don’t know how to throw away. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests pharmaceutical take-back programs that will safely dispose of unused or expired medicines. Your local pharmacies or government offices can tell you if such a program exists in your area.

Gather the expired medication.

If your medicine cabinet looks anything like mine, you should probably take this opportunity to straighten it out. The oldest prescription I found in my medicine cabinet had expired in March 2003. Can you beat that? Some unused drugs and expired medicines in your cabinet can go directly into the toilet (more on that below). Separate out those that can be flushed from the ones you need to dispose of in the trash.

Collect the necessary supplies for disposing of expired medicine.

Once you’ve determined there isn’t a drug take-back program in your area, it’s time to dispose of the medications that cannot be flushed. First, you’ll need something to contain the expired drugs. An empty coffee can, plastic bag, or plastic container will work perfectly, as long as it can be sealed. It all depends on what you have on hand. If it’s an old food container, make sure it’s cleaned well, so as to not entice a pet or child before you get a chance to take out the trash. You’ll also need coffee grounds or cat litter—basically whatever gross stuff you have around your house that you’d be throwing out anyway. That way if there’s a spill or if a pill bursts on the way to the landfill, the medication is covered soaked up or otherwise contained.

Place the expired medication in the container.

Mix the expired medicine with the coffee grounds, kitty litter, or what have you. Hopefully your pet or child or neighborhood druggie will steer clear of this concoction. It is time to seal the container. A heavy tape, like packing tape or duct tape, would work well to ensure that the container stays sealed, both while still in your possession or in the landfill. Just tape the heck out of the container.

Place the sealed container of medicines in the household trash.

If your child or pet is prone to digging in the trash, take the garbage to the trash chute, outdoor trash barrel, or dumpster. Dust off your palms with a sense of accomplishment.

Protect Your Privacy

Once your medicines have been properly discarded, you should remove or obscure all identifying information on your bottles before recycling them. In this age of identity theft and privacy concerns, you can’t be too careful. Unless, of course, you want to let nosy, and possibly malicious, folks know you take Lipitor or Viagra or Zoloft or what have you. I found one over-the-counter drug bottle in my medicine cabinet that was so old the label got tired and fell off, but pharmacies usually do a good job of making sure labels are securely affixed. A permanent marker or some sort of scraper will come in handy when getting rid of your identifying information on those labels as long as you’re writing on the label, and not plastic covering the label. If you use a knife or razor to scrape, be careful. However, to help you out with expired/unused medication disposal to protect your privacy, you could always purchase Takeaway postage-prepaid medication bags.

Fewer Drugs in Your Medicine Cabinet

Get a move on.

Another way to get rid of some of those expired medicines and unused drugs is to never buy them in the first place. I’m certainly not advocating going without the medications you need, but consulting a physician about lifestyle changes could mean you’re less dependent on a medication and generally healthier. Consider taking up yoga, or start a daily walk. These activities help increase your metabolism, center your mind, and lower stress. Heck, you can get started with a variety of video options from Amazon, some you can even watch online.

Grab a whole grain or piece of fruit.

Simply changing your diet can provide a jolt to your body’s mechanics. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, increase fiber intake, and lower the amounts of fats and refined sugars you pour into your body. You don’t have to give up donuts outright, but remember: all things in moderation. As always, check with your physician though…you may be surprised at how willing they will be to help you change your lifestyle to cut out some of the need for medications that will expire.

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