The invention of modern medicines has played a crucial role in improving the quality and longevity of life. Medicines are made of either natural or synthetic compounds that are intended to treat various health conditions. However, these substances can also cause health problems, particularly poisoning, if taken more than the safe amounts or alongside other substances. Taking expired medications can also lead to serious health problems so safe disposal of unused mediations is important to prevent potential harm.
Important Disclaimer: the material posted on this blog for preventing accidental poisoning is for information purposes only. Take a St Mark James first aid course to learn how to help individuals with taking medication (ex: 6 rights of medication) and how to manage poisonings.
Check the Expiration Dates
The Food and Drug Administration requires all pharmaceutical products to contain expiration dates. The expiration dates are critical in determining whether a product is still safe for consumption and will work as expected. This information is normally found stamped onto the carton or bottle or printed on the label. It is important that you read the label and check the expiration date before taking any medication.
Aside from the fact that expired medical products are less effective, they can be risky due to the chemical changes in its composition. It may be difficult to predict how an expired drug will affect the body. Moreover, treating poisoning due to expired medications is often more challenging. Usually, medical products have an antidote which is taken to manage or treat a person in case of accidental overdose or poisoning. In the case of expired drugs, the full intended effects of these antidotes are not guaranteed. It is quite difficult to predict what chemical changes have occurred in the overdosed medications and how it can best be handled. Healthcare providers administering emergency treatment may rely on diagnostic tests to treat the problem.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends checking medicine cabinets regularly for any unused or expired medications. If you have any of these medications, you should consider disposing them safely. The proper disposal of medications cannot be overemphasized. This is because improper disposal of unused medications may pose harm not just to humans but also the environment. For example, the medications you disposed may end up in the hands of other people who can either intentionally or accidentally take the medications, or the medications can also be flushed to tributaries affecting its ecology.
How to Dispose of Expired Medications
Here’s how you can safely dispose unused or expired medications:
- Remove the medication from its original container. Mix it with dirt, coffee grounds, or kitty litter, so that it becomes unappetizing. Place the mixture in a tightly sealed plastic bag or container. Then, put it in the regular garbage.
- Make sure you peel off the label and other identifying information from the container to ensure your privacy. Dispose or recycle the container.
However, these general guidelines do not apply to strong sedatives and painkillers. As much as possible, these drugs should be turned over to qualified professionals for safe disposal. If it is not possible, the medications should be flushed down the toilet to minimize potential hazards. For drug-specific instructions, you can check the medication label about proper drug disposal.
To learn more about helping people take medication and how to treat poisonings enrol in St Mark James first aid and CPR training (sign up here). Check out our locations page for more information about providers near you.