The Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge


With Patient Safety Awareness Week around the corner (Mar. 8 – Mar. 14), we want to bring attention to a hidden safety hazard found in all of our own homes, our medicine cabinet. It’s so important that we understand the medications we take, safety awareness week how to store them securely, and dispose of them properly

So take the Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge. We’ve organized the challenge into 3 simple steps. Below each step, are a few questions to keep in mind when completing them. Our hopes are that by having you complete this challenge, you become more informed about the proper way to secure and dispose of their medications. If you would like more information about the Challenge leave a comment.

1. Know your medications

Do you take your prescriptions as prescribed? If your medication is going to help you, you need to take it correctly. If you’re not sure ask your doctor or pharmacist.  Ask—

  • Should I take this medication on an empty stomach or with food?
  • How often should I take it?
  • What time of day should I take it?
  • Which medications should not be taken with alcohol?
  • Are there any foods that should be avoided while taking your medication?

You are encouraged to talk to your pharmacist and ensure you are taking your medications correctly. Do not leave the pharmacy without understanding everything you need to know about your medications.

Do you understand all possible side effects? Any medicine, no matter how safe and effective, has the potential to cause side effects. If you’re not sure ask your doctor or pharmacist. Ask –

  • Does this medication have side effects?
  • Does this medication interact with your current prescription medications or conflict with any of your chronic conditions. If you use multiple doctors and or pharmacists make sure they know all your medications. Sharing your updated list every time you see your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider helps them give you the best care possible.
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of side effects?
  • What action should I take if I experience a possible side effect?
  • Can I drive or do jobs that require me to be alert?
  • Can I drink alcohol?

2. Secure your medications

Are your medicines stored in a secured location? All medications in your home should be kept out of reach and securely locked. Keep all medicines in their original packages and containers the label on the bottle provides important information about the medicine.

How do you monitor the amount left in each medicine bottle? Did you know the fastest growing trend in teen drug abuse is prescription medications? They know where you keep your meds, and they know you won’t miss 1 or 2 or 5 pills. Make note of how many pills are in each medicine bottle; keep track of refills and be sure you control any medication that has been prescribed to your child.

3. Dispose of your medications

Do you know how/where to safely dispose of any unused or expired medications? 
 Do not flush prescription medicines or Over the Counter products down the sink or toilet! Although using the toilet or sink prevents someone from accidentally taking the medications, disposing of them in this way causes water pollution and has adverse effects on septic systems, sewage treatment plants, fish and other aquatic wildlife. Trace amounts of all kinds of drugs have also been found in some drinking water supplies because they pass through septic systems and sewage plants untreated.

Medicine take-back programs for disposal are a good way to remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from the home and reduce the chance that others may accidentally take the medicine. Contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to see if there is a medicine take-back program in your community and learn about any special rules regarding which medicines can be taken back.

Chain pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid provide disposal envelopes for prescription and over the counter medicines for a small fee. Ask your pharmacist for details and program restrictions. Find a Pharmacy

Oakley Disposal – Don’t throw away your expired prescription medicine. It can be dropped off at no charge at the Delta Household Hazardous Waste Facility at 2550 Pittsburg-Antioch Hwy in Pittsburg.

Sharps: Call Delta Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility at (925) 756-1990 to request a BD Home Sharps Container by mail. The container holds 70-100 insulin syringes or 300 pen needles. When the container is full, simply return to the facility and receive another.

If no medicine take-back program is available in your area, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

  • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds;
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag; and
  • Throw the container in your household trash.
  • Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, remember to scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.

Have you checked to see if any medications are recalled? If you have a medicine that has been recalled, talk to your health care professional about the best course of action. Stores generally have a return and refund policy when a company has announced a recall of its products.

Check here for recalls

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About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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