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  • Scripps Health

6 Tips to Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet

Taking expired medicine can be risky, proper disposal is easy

When it comes to medications, keeping them beyond their expiration dates and letting them

accumulate in your medicine cabinet can be risky.

Timely disposal can reduce the risk of others taking the medication by accident or misusing them intentionally, which could be the case with opioids.

Older adults — the most common users of medications — are especially at risk of reaching for the wrong pill bottle in a cluttered medicine cabinet.

“Clean out your medicine cabinet regularly so expired or unused medications don't collect over time and are accidentally or even intentionally taken," says Oscar Cook, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Jefferson in Oceanside. “Safe disposal of unwanted medication is important also to prevent accidents.”

Here are six tips for cleaning out your medicine cabinet.

1.     Check the expiration dates

All prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications have an expiration date on the label that is based on testing. The date is the final day that the manufacturer can guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug, if properly stored.

Some studies show that many drugs can still be taken after their expiration date if they are properly stored.

But is it better to be cautious and dispose of expired medication?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is clear on this question. The FDA says using expired medical products is risky and possibly harmful and recommends proper disposal.