As we ring in the new year, many of us take a renewed interest in our wellness with things like new gym memberships or plans to finally eat healthier. All great ideas, but one you may not have thought of is to take a look at all of your medications. Many of us have prescriptions scattered throughout our home in places like a medicine cabinet, pill holder, and top of our dresser or even the kitchen cabinet. The start of the New Year is a great time to take a medication inventory that includes prescription drugs that should be updated, and which ones you might no longer need.
“Many people I talk to have expired medications in their homes,” said Dr. Suzanne Nadra Nouri 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 big concern doctors have is many unused medications can end up in the hands of those who should not have them. Despite childproof packaging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 50,000 children went to Emergency Departments each year from taking medications that belonged to an adult. Even your pets are at risk with the ASPCA reporting over 20,000 calls a year due to pets eating prescriptions or medications meant for humans.
In particular, opioids should be disposed of properly to keep them out of the hands of children and others as they 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 said. “Dropping off your unneeded and expired prescriptions at the proper location (as described above) will help protect your family and friends, and our precious regional lakes and rivers.”
So what do you do? Take your unused medication and drop them into any of the permanent and secure medication take-back drop boxes open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ThedaCare’s medication take-back 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 are also available at other local facilities such as police stations and pharmacies. Just give them a call and ask.
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.
Even if you don’t have children or other vulnerable people in your home, or your prescription drugs do not contain opioids, people should not keep expired prescriptions in their homes, Dr. Havican said.
“Expired medications often do not work as they were first intended; in certain circumstances they can even cause you harm,” Dr. Havican said. “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 encouraged 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 said. “We’re here to answer your questions, keep you safe and healthy and empower you to live your best life.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.