Spring is in bloom and people throughout the country have begun their annual cleaning routine. While tidying up around the house, special attention should be paid to items stored in the medicine cabinet, especially unused or expired medications.
“Unused and expired pharmaceuticals pose a potential threat to an individual’s health, as well as to the environment,” states William Dotzman, DO, an osteopathic family physician from Dunedin, Fla. “It is important to dispose of these materials properly.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns against flushing medications down the drain or toilet. According to the EPA, pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) are unsafe to dispose of in domestic sewage systems because domestic septic systems do not necessarily destroy PPCPs.
“Instead of flushing unwanted pharmaceuticals down the toilet,” says Dr. Dotzman, “it is better to seek out alternative methods for throwing away unused or expired medications."
Safe and legal methods for the disposal of pharmaceuticals vary according to state and local law. Always familiarize yourself with the legislation in your community before taking action. Contact your town or city council for appropriate disposal guidelines.
“Safely disposing of unwanted medications may involve contacting a pharmacy that will accept the materials,” explains Dr. Dotzman. “It may even involve rendering them unusable. For example, you might seal a container of pills with glue so that it cannot be reopened.”
While sifting through your medicine cabinet it is important to know what ought to be kept, and what needs to be thrown away.
To safely update your medicine cabinet, Dr. Dotzman recommends removing:
Expired or left-over prescription medicines
Containers missing labels
Unused medications with broken seals or damaged containers
To keep your family safe from the potential harm of over-the-counter and prescription medications, Dr. Dotzman suggests:
Looking through your medicine supply at least once a year
Storing medications in cool, dry places or as instructed on the label
Keeping medications out of the reach of children
Never removing medicines from their original containers
“Playing it safe is the best way to protect yourself and your family from unnecessary risks,” stresses Dr. Dotzman.
Preventative medicine is just one element of the spectrum of care that osteopathic physicians (DOs) provide. As complete physicians, DOs are able to prescribe medication, perform surgery and can be found practicing in all areas of medicine. DOs can also use their hands to help diagnose and treat injury and illness and to encourage the bodies natural tendency toward good health through the use of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT).