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Add the Medicine Cabinet to your Spring Cleaning List

Angie Royal RN, BScN

Spring is here. It’s time to freshen things up: sweep away the sand, wash your windows, sort out your closets. It’s also the perfect opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinet. Many of us keep those “just in case” medications “just in case”. The left over painkillers from your surgery, the antibiotics you stopped taking because you were feeling better, who knows when you might need them, right? Wrong. These medications can lead to poisoning, misuse and abuse. Make sure you dispose of all expired and unnecessary medications. And Spring is the perfect time to do it.

Poisoning

Prescription medications can be dangerous. When the wrong amount is taken, or when they are taken by someone they are not intended for, poisoning can result. Even a small amount of adult medication can be fatal to a child. Medications should be kept out of a child’s reach. And even though it might seem like childproof containers are adult proof, we all know that kids have a knack for figuring these things out.

Remember, poisoning doesn’t just happen to kids. Adults and teens can unintentionally take too much medication or the wrong medication, especially if they are cognitively impaired.

Misuse

Drug misuse is another risk. Taking expired or the wrong medication - easy to do if you have a small pharmacy in your cabinet - may lead to unpleasant or harmful side effects. An improper dose or the wrong medication can cause drowsiness, dizziness, vision problems and confusion. These side effects can lead to a serious injury such as a fall. Remember to keep medications in the original container so you do not mistake them for something else and so you know the expiry date.

Abuse

Did you know that prescription drugs are now one of the most commonly abused drugs in Canada? You may have heard of people’s homes being broken into in order to steal medication but it is also possible that someone who lives in your home, or someone you invite into your home, could take something. 1 in 6 teens have abused prescription drugs and 70% of them got them from home. Almost half of households contain medication that can be abused. Don’t take any chances, make sure medications are safely stored and returned to your pharmacy if they are not needed.

Medications can be returned to your pharmacy at any time during the year or at a local prescription drug drop-off day, which is usually held in the Spring Don’t throw them in the garbage or flush them down the toilet. Get rid of prescription drugs safely. Please return unused or expired medications to help protect you and your family.