May brings the excitement of warmer weather and planned summer activities. May also is a time spent cleaning inside and outside our homes. As you complete your cleanup chores consider spending sometime reviewing medications you keep in your home.
Outdated over-the-counter and prescription medications can become ineffective once an expiration date has passed. Solid dosage forms, such as tablets and capsules, are the most stable past their expiration date. Drugs that exist in solution or as a reconstituted suspension may not have the required potency if used when outdated. Any liquid injectable that has become cloudy or discolored may not be safe and should be discarded. If the drugs look or smell odd, don’t take them. So, for example, do not use tablets that are crumbling, or suspensions that remain separate despite vigorous shaking. If it is suspicious, do not use it.
Certain medications are known to have a short shelf life including nitroglycerin, insulin, liquid antibiotics, and epinephrine. In addition, tetracycline is known to become toxic after a period of time. Check with you doctor or pharmacist if you are in question on a particular medication.
Medication left in your home can become a target of accidental ingestion or theft. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from drug overdose have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes. In 2011, drug misuse and abuse caused about 2.5 million emergency department visits. Of these, more than 1.4 million visits were related to pharmaceuticals. Among children under age 6, pharmaceuticals account for about 40 percent of all exposures reported to poison centers.
In 2011, about 1.4 million emergency visits involved the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals. Among those visits, 501,207 were related to anti-anxiety and insomnia medications, and 420,040 visits were related to opioid analgesics.
In North Dakota, one in six high school students (16.2 percent) reported taking prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription in 2011. Seventy-one percent of the time the medication was obtained from a family member or friend.
A common belief is prescription medications are safe because they are prescribed by a physician and are therefore safer than illegal drugs. Prescription drugs provide many benefits when used correctly under a prescriber’s care. However, if they are misused or abused, they can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs, especially when taken with alcohol or other drugs. Using another person’s medication or sharing your medication with someone else is against the law and can result in you being arrested.
Like firearms or other dangerous weapons, prescription medications should be safeguarded through proper storage to prevent unauthorized access. Use lockable cabinets or containers to control access to prescription medication. Store over-the-counter medications out of the reach of children. Medication that is expired or is no longer in use, can be taken to the drop-off site at the West Fargo Police Department, 800 4thAve. E., for proper disposal.