Where do you keep your medication? It is important to know where your medication are and the best way to store your medication to assure that they are being stored correctly, to help assure that other people don’t have access to them and to help you take all of your medication as prescribed. According to reports in Health: United States 2008, 20% of all Americans and 60% of those age 65 or older, use three or more prescription drugs on a regular basis. What happens to your medication, who has access to them and how they are stored and disposed of are all important questions for you and your family.

All medication, prescription and over the counter, should be kept out of the reach of children, pets, or other people who may want to take your medication for the purpose of selling them or using them inappropriately.

Medication should help a person in achieving or maintaining wellness. To assure your medication are working to help you it is very important to make sure your medication have not been altered because of storage.

Many people keep their medications in the bathroom cabinet. However, bathroom cabinets are generally warm and humid which actually increases the rate of a drug’s breakdown. For example, aspirin tablets break down into acetic acid, or more commonly known as vinegar. In rare cases medication that is improperly stored can become toxic.

Safe keeping of medications tips include:

• *Periodically organize and keep track of medications.
• *Keep all of your medication in one place and out of reach of children.
• *Frequently keep track of the amount of medication you have
• *Organize or store medications for different family members separately to avoid the risk of mistakenly taking the wrong medications.
• Whenever possible, try to keep medication in their original containers or packaging. The original packaging has useful information such as dosing, expiration date, pharmacy, and contact information.
• Don’t combine different medication.
• Check expiration dates of medications and dispose of any expired medication.
• If a medication was taken in error, in excess, or if there is a fear of interaction call Poison Control at 1-800 222-1222 and follow their guidelines.

The US Food and Drug Administration federal guidelines for drug disposal includes following any specific disposal instructions on drug labels or patient information that accompanies the medication. The precautions are part of the FDA’s risk mitigation strategy as appropriate route of disposal. It is important to follow the medication disposal precautions because there is concern about trace levels of drug residues found in surface water such as rivers and lakes, and in some community drinking water supplies.

• Do not flush prescription medications unless the information provided specifically instructs you to do so.
• Take advantage of community drug take-back programs which allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. In our area, medication can be brought to the Gogebic County Sheriff’s Department and/or the Ironwood Public Safety Department.
• If no disposal instructions were included with the medication, or if in doubt of how to properly dispose of, talk with your pharmacist.
• It is also advised that the same disposal methods for prescription drugs could apply to over-the-counter medications.

Gina Cummings, BSN RN and Lea Miskovich, RN

Safe Keeping of Medication