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How to safely store and dispose of medicine

Alicia Colombo

Storage of medication can affect how well it works. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers the following tips on storing your medicine property, so it stays safe and effective for as long as possible.

Do you store your medicine in the bathroom? Heat, air, light and moisture may damage medication, making it less potent or causing it to spoil before the expiration date. Pills and capsules are easily damaged by heat and moisture. Aspirin pills break down into vinegar and salicylic acid, which irritates the stomach.

Store over-the-counter and prescription medications in a cool, dry place, such as a dresser drawer, storage box, shelf or closet in a climate-controlled area of your home. If you store medicine in a kitchen cabinet, make sure it is away from the stove, sink and any heat-generating appliances.

Always keep medicine in its original container. After opening a new medicine bottle, remove any cotton inside. Cotton absorbs moisture, pulling it into the bottle. Ask your pharmacist if there are any storage instructions that are specific to your medication(s).

If you have children living or staying with you, it is recommended that you store all medicine in a cabinet with a child latch or lock.

Damaged or expired medicine can make you sick. Do not take:

  • Medicine that has changed color, texture or smell, even if it has not expired.
  • Pills that stick together, are harder or softer than normal, or are cracked or chipped.
  • Old medicine, even if it is unused. Check the expiration date on your medicine bottle or box. Dispose of all medicines that are out of date.

Dispose of any unused, unwanted or damaged medicine safely and promptly. Before disposing of prescription medicines, be sure to remove all personal information on pill bottle labels and other medicine packaging.

The best way to dispose of most types of unused or expired medicines is to drop them off at a drug take-back site, event or program. Oct. 24 is National Drug Take Back Day, sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). For more information or to find a take-back site near you, call 1-800-882-9539 or go to

Categories: Health Milestones eNews


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