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Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet in the New Year

Last updated: January 23, 2023

At your annual wellness appointment, your primary care provider should go over all of your prescriptions and medications.

Dr. Suzanne Havican, Family Medicine Physician, ThedaCare Physicians-New London

As the new year begins, you may find a renewed interest in your wellness. Perhaps you’ve found a new gym or plan to eat healthier. One step you may not have thought of is to assess your medications.

A lot of us have prescriptions scattered throughout our homes. The start of the new year is a great time to take a medication inventory. This includes looking at which prescription drugs may need updating and which ones you might no longer need.

“Many people I talk to have expired medications in their homes,” says Dr. Suzanne Havican, a family medicine physician with ThedaCare Physicians-New London. “For a number of reasons, folks may choose to keep them on hand, but it is incredibly important to understand keeping expired medications around can be very dangerous.”

Updating the medications in your home is a key part of safeguarding your health — as well as the health and safety of those around you. One concern is that unused medications can end up in the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.

Despite childproof packaging, 50,000 children go to emergency departments each year after taking medications that belong to an adult, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also reports receiving over 20,000 calls a year due to pets eating prescriptions or medications meant for humans.

Proper Disposal

Pay particular attention to disposing of opioids appropriately, as using them improperly can lead to addiction or cause serious illness or death. As a part of a community health initiative to combat opioid abuse, overdose and accidental poisoning in children, ThedaCare installed medication take-back drop boxes at several locations in 2019 to allow the community to safely dispose of unused medication.

“Flushing unused medication down the toilet is a huge no-no, as drugs can contaminate the public water supply,” Dr. Havican says. “Dropping off your unneeded and expired prescriptions at the proper location will help protect your family and friends as well as our precious regional lakes and rivers.”

You can bring your unused medications to any of the permanent and secure medication take-back drop boxes. Most are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Medication take-back drop boxes are available at:

  • ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton
  • ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin
  • ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah
  • ThedaCare Medical Center-New London
  • ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano
  • ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca
  • ThedaCare Cancer Care-Oshkosh (available during clinic hours)

Medication take-back boxes also are available at other local facilities such as police stations and pharmacies.

Items accepted include expired and no-longer-needed prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, medicated ointments and non-aerosol sprays.

Items that are not accepted include needles, lancets, syringes, thermometers, IV bags, diabetes test kits, personal care products, inhalers and liquids. Ask your provider’s office how to safely dispose of these items.

Expired Meds

Even if you don’t have children or other vulnerable people in your home, or your prescription drugs do not contain opioids, you shouldn’t keep expired prescriptions on hand, Dr. Havican says.

“Expired medications often do not work as they were first intended, and in certain circumstances they can even cause you harm,” Dr. Havican says. “At your annual wellness appointment, your primary care provider should go over all of your prescriptions and medications. If they don’t, ask them to. You will be helping yourself and those around you.”

Dr. Havican encourages all community members to make their health a priority in 2023.

“Make this new year the healthiest ever by talking to your primary care provider about your needed medications and what you can safely dispose of,” Dr. Havican says. “We’re here to answer your questions, keep you safe and healthy and empower you to live your best life.”

Schedule your annual wellness visit today.

Tags: disposal Dr. Suzanne Havican expired medications medication safety Prescription medications

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