Fall Cleaning

Father Ralph deposits his unused medications at last year’s Drug Take Back day.

“We’re going to have a truck in your neighborhood so if you have any clothes or household items you can set aside, we’ll be glad to pick them up.” So goes the phone call from any number of charities who seek our no-longer-used items which they then sell to support their charitable work. This column is about to urge you to go through the unused items, not in your clothes closet, but rather in your medicine cabinet.

Try this out: when you’ve finished reading this article, go to your medicine cabinet (or wherever you store your medicinals) and take a close look at what is there. Maybe there’ll be some left over prescriptions you were saving “just in case” you might need them again. But they are expired. In fact, some might be so old that you can hardly remember what they were prescribed for!

Some medicines might be the over-the-counter type which are equally expired. No one would keep leftover rancid milk in their refrigerator, yet there are thousands of vials of expired drugs in our Levittown homes. Just as you ought not drink soured milk, so too it would be of concern to consume old medicines of any type. Some simply lose their potency and won’t do what you want them to. Others are actually harmful in their decayed state.

Now there shouldn’t be ANY expired antibiotics in your cabinet. Antibiotics are a type of drug that should be completely finished according to the prescription at the time they are prescribed. It’s important to take all of the medication, even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, the drug may not kill all the bacteria. You may become sick again, and the remaining bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic that you’ve taken.

However this is not true for other kinds of drugs, especially opioids and other kinds of pain killers. Pain medication is meant to be taken when there is pain. If the pain stops, the medicine should stop too. This leaves people with a situation that has proven dangerous to themselves and family members. When people keep leftover opioids, there could be a temptation to take them again, not for pain, but for help with an emotionally “bad day.” This has proven to be the beginning of addictions to pain killers for many people. Sometimes the storage of unused opioids are a temptation for other family members, or even guests, who are seeking to feed an addiction. Young people have been known to take meds from their grandparents’ bathroom cabinet to use or to bring to parties. It’s important to keep these controlled substances, well, controlled!

So you’ve looked through your medicine cabinet and found expired and unused drugs. What now? There is a temptation to flush them down the toilet, but that now introduces these drugs into the water supply. We have enough concerns about the quality of our water without contributing to the problems.

The good news is that Levittown’s Community Action Coalition is sponsoring a drug take-back day on Saturday, October 26th from 9:30am to 12:30pm in front of Wisdom Lane Middle School, 120 Center Lane, Levittown. You can drive up, and drop off any unused medications, receive some thank-you literature, and then head off for the rest of your weekend activities, knowing that you have made your life and our world a little safer. (Illegal drugs are also accepted, no questions asked. It’s time to quit.)

Keep all medications in their original containers. Remove your name for anonymity. Do not cross out medication information. Syringes and sharps are not accepted. Liquid medication cannot be accepted either. To dispose of liquid meds, mix with coffee grounds, kitty litter, dirt, or another undesirable substance. Place this mixture in a sealed container and dispose in the trash.

I participated in the drug take back day last year and I thought I had taken care of all my old medications. But today’s check of my medicine cabinet turned up some more forgotten drugs which I didn’t notice last time. So I’ll be heading over to our local drug take back site again. Now it’s your turn.



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