North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Health

April 22, 2009

How to properly dispose of unused medications

Health Watch By Amanda Hamil

The North Jefferson News




Will spring cleaning this year include cleaning out your medicine cabinet?

Cleaning out your medicine cabinet once a year is a good idea, and if you are anything like me, you have a medicine cabinet full of old prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some of the medications may have expired, others you just have no need for anymore.

Medications that have expired lose their effectiveness and disposing of them is the best way to ensure you are getting the most out of your medications. Both expired over-the-counter medications and old prescription medications need to be disposed.

Hanging onto prescription antibiotics, decongestants, cough syrups, etc. for later use is not such a good idea. You really shouldn’t have any leftover antibiotics since you are always supposed to take the full course, but if you do have some laying around, it isn’t a good idea to save them for your next cold.

Most colds are viral and cannot be treated with an antibiotic, so taking an old antibiotic at the first sign of a stuffy nose just leads to antibiotic resistance. Also, not all antibiotics treat the same bacteria, so if your cough and cold lingers, you want to be sure to see your doctor for the most appropriate antibiotic.

Sharing medications is also a bad idea for the same reasons. There are many different types of bacteria and many different classes of antibiotics to treat them, so your old ciprofloxacin prescription might not benefit someone else.

It is also important that the doctor know the person’s medical history — including drug allergies — in order to prescribe the most suitable medication for that specific patient. So don’t hang onto old prescription medications just in case your daughter/brother/neighbor may need them one day. It not only may be ineffective for their symptoms, it very well could be dangerous.

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