It is spring cleaning time, and while we may be sorting our closets, garage, and other spaces, one area that is commonly overlooked is the medicine cabinet. There happens to be an entire day dedicated to focusing on this area. National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day is Friday, April 16. The day aims to raise awareness and effectively rid homes of unused or expired prescription and over-the-counter medications sitting in medicine cabinets, nightstands, or kitchen cabinets that have the potential for misuse or abuse. 

How you dispose of your expired or unused medications is just as important as why. Environmental studies show that flushed medications flow into our water supply and negatively impact the fish we eat and the water we drink. When discarded in the trash, medications leach into and contaminate the soil. 

An excessive amount of unused or expired prescription and over-the-counter medicines could lead to misuse or abuse from members and visitors of the home. In addition, consumption of expired medicine may lead to poisoning or death in some cases. In 2017, approximately 18 million people misused prescription opioids, depressants, and stimulants. Misuse of prescription drugs is highest in young adults ages 18 to 25. Older adults aged 57 to 85 typically take at least one prescription medication daily. However, this could lead to unintentional misuse if taken differently than how it was prescribed.

Organizing the areas in our homes that contain medications can potentially save lives. You become aware of what medications are in the house along with how much of each medication is left, and it reduces the risk of taking expired medications.

Deciding which medications to dispose of may be easy, but knowing how to properly do it is the most important part. The FDA lists various methods of disposing of medicine. The proper disposal method for all unused or expired medications includes authorized collection sites and in-home disposal kits. One recommendation is to remove the label on the medication and empty contents into a sealable bag. Add something not desired like dirt, coffee grounds, or cat litter. This makes it unappealing to someone who may find it in the trash. For more information on proper medication disposal, visit

At-home drug disposal solutions offer a simple and effective way of disposing of unwanted medications. If you have large quantities of leftover medications, you may also consider participating in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA’s) National Drug Takeback Day on April 24. Some areas in your town, like a pharmacy, environmental facility, or hospital, may offer drop-off sites or mail-back programs to ensure safe disposal.

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