National Spring Cleaning Week: Clean the Cabinet

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Did you know that it’s National Spring Cleaning Week? For the last eight years, has designated the last week of March as the perfect time to clear out old clutter to create a healthier, more comfortable home. But don’t stop at sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming away the winter’s accumulated dust and dirt-take this opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinets and any other areas you use for storing prescription medications.

The Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse

With prescription drug abuse on the rise among children and teens, it’s important that unused or expired medications are properly disposed of. Many teens admit that they take prescription medications from their parents’ (or their friends’ parents’) medicine cabinets, so it’s up to you to keep these dangerous items out of the wrong hands. Many people are under the misconception that prescription drugs are safe to take because they are legal, but if misused or abused, they can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Prescription drug abuse can lead to tolerance and dependence, accidents and injuries due to impaired judgment and coordination, serious health problems, psychological problems, legal problems, and even death from accidents, overdose, or fatal drug interactions.

In addition, many people start abusing prescription medications and then move to illicit drugs; for example, people who become dependent on the narcotic painkiller OxyContin often end up turning to heroin because it elicits very similar effects but can be much cheaper and easier to obtain.

How to Dispose of Medication Properly

When going through your medicine cabinet, check all of your prescription medication bottles and dispose of any unused or expired medications (including over-the-counter medications) by following these steps. DO NOT toss pill bottles into the garbage or flush the pills down the toilet.

  1. Read the label and/or insert to see if there are specific instructions for disposing of the medication.
  2. See if there is a “take-back” program in your community for unused prescription drugs.
  3. Remove the prescription label or scratch out your personal information to protect your privacy.
  4. If you plan to put prescription medication in the garbage, mix pills and liquids with something that has a strong and unappealing smell or taste, such as cat litter, coffee grounds, or cayenne pepper. You can add water to pill bottles so they’ll dissolve. Then put the mixture in a non-see-through container with a tight lid, and tape it shut with heavy-duty tape. Place this container in the trash and cover it with other garbage so it isn’t easily accessible.

Clearing out your medicine cabinet could help save lives and prevent prescription drug abuse and addiction, and it’s a great way to make your home even safer and healthier during National Spring Cleaning Week.

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