In New Hampshire, we are true Yankees. We hate to throw anything away, especially something we paid for. “I might need this someday”, we tell ourselves. But…take a look in your medicine cabinet. How much of what is in there is old? How much is dangerous?
I want to convince you to throw out that old stuff, and I offer 3 good reasons.
First, you might hurt yourself. Anything you are no longer taking could be confused with something you are supposed to take. Modern medication names are very confusing. Aciphex and Aricept are very similar drug names, but one is used for heartburn and the other for dementia. Taking the wrong one won’t help treat the condition that troubles you. Worse, it may be dangerous for you.
Second, someone you love may be hurt by it. Unused medicines are sometimes attractive to young children. The colors and shapes look like candy, something like M&Ms or Skittles. It would not take much adult blood pressure medicine to put a child in the intensive care unit. All medicines are a potential hazard for children, but medicines you don’t use are unnecessarily dangerous.
Third, and this a BIG one, some medicines are attractive to thieves, and they want to target your medicine cabinet. A few months ago, my neighbor was burglarized. Where did the thieves go in her home? Why, straight to her medicine cabinet. What were they looking for? They were looking for narcotics, anti-anxiety agents, amphetamines…anything that could feed a drug habit or fetch a good price on the street. There is a growing problem with drug abuse in the area. Users eventually get desperate and resort to illegal activities. If you have something in your home, there is risk. Even family members sometimes steal one another’s medicines to feed a drug habit. In fact, 85% of the prescription narcotics abused are obtained from somebody else’s prescription. Some of those were stolen by family members with a drug problem. Don’t create opportunity in your home.
If you are being treated for pain – such as you might after orthopedic surgery, there are good reasons to have a small supply of narcotic pain medicines on hand, but they should be stored carefully and discarded if they are not being used. Don’t make it widely known that you have pain medicine in your home. That makes you a target for narcotic thieves.
So, how do you discard old medicines, including narcotics? The best way is to take them to an authorized disposal station. In Laconia, the police department has a safe
disposal area which is open and accessible every day. Do not flush them down the toilet. They pollute the ground water and can clog your toilet or septic system.
You can still be a thrifty Yankee without holding on to old medicines. Smart Yankees store what they need, not what they don’t need.
Margaret Franckhauser RN, MS, MPH
Chief Executive Officer
Central New Hampshire VNA & Hospice