What's in your Medicine Cabinet?

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What’s in your Medicine Cabinet?

Spring cleaning this year? Don’t forget to include your medicine cabinet! Many of us accumulate multiple medications over the course of a year, whether it’s over the counter medication for a pesky cold or stronger medication prescribed to us by our doctor for a more serious medical condition. April 19, 2024 is National Clean out your Medicine Cabinet Day which occurs annually on the third Friday in April. This day is a great reminder to take a little bit of time to clean out your medicine cabinet of any expired, unused, or no longer needed medication.

Storing unneeded and unused medications in an easily accessible cabinet at home can put your loved ones, including children, adults, and pets, at risk for misusing medication or having an accidental overdose. 65.9% of opioids are obtained by people through a friend or relative (either for free, for a charge, or from theft), so it’s important we take stock of our inventory and dispose of the medication we no longer need.

Keeping expired medication around in the case of needing it again is not advised. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, expired medications become ineffective and dangerous due to a change in chemical composition that typically takes place over time and/or when the conditions in which the medications are stored changes.

Lastly, it’s important to refrain from keeping leftover prescription medication such as pain medication or antibiotics to give to others when they are ill or to self-medicate. Medications prescribed by a doctor are intended to be used with the instructions listed on the bottle, and they can only be deemed safe when used correctly by the person they were prescribed to.

What are the types of medication that should be removed from your medicine cabinet?
• Any expired medication (including vitamins, supplements, creams, over the counter medicine and prescription medication);
• Any medication that is unmarked, not in the original container, and that you are unsure of its expiration date and what type of medication it is;
• Any medication that has changed in color, smell or taste or if it has been exposed to too much light as the medicine may be altered and therefore risky to ingest; and
• Prescription medication that you are no longer taking (pain medication for an acute condition, antibiotics, etc.).

What should you do with the medication you have removed from your cabinet?

1. Drop it off at a drug take-back location as take-back sites will properly and safely dispose of the medication for you. Many pharmacies and police stations accept medication year-round, and there are several take-back sites in SD that can be found using this link https://www.avoidopioidsd.com/take-action/safe-medication-disposal/.

2. Dispose of your medication by using a Dispose RX packet. Once mixed into the medication bottle, the Dispose RX packet chemically and physically neutralizes the medication thereby making it ineffective as well as safe for the environment when thrown away. Dispose RX packets can be used with pills, capsules, tablets, liquids, and powders. Dispose RX packets can be ordered for free through this link https://helplinecenter.jotform.com/form/201986148733059.

3. If you do not have access to a take-back site or a dispose RX packet, check to see if your medication falls within the FDA’s Flush List found using this link https://www.fda.gov/drugs/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know/drug-disposal-fdas-flush-list-certain-medicines. Medications on this list are those that are sought after for their misuse potential and that can result in death from one dose if taken incorrectly. It is only advised to flush medications on this list if there are no other disposal methods accessible because of the greater harm these medications pose to human life if misused versus the environment if flushed.

4. If you do not have access to a take-back site, do not have a Dispose RX packet, and your medication is not on the FDA Flush List, dispose your medicine in the trash utilizing these steps.
1. Remove the drugs from the original container;
2. Mix your medication with things such as used coffee grounds, cat litter, or dirt to make it unappealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to someone intentionally going through the trash looking for drugs;
3. Place the mixture in something you can close (a zippered plastic bag or container with a lid) to prevent the mixture from leaking; and
4. Throw the container in the trash.

It is extremely important to dispose of medication properly so that we can keep our loved ones and our environment safe. This National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day, make it a priority to get rid of unused, unneeded, and expired medication from your home.


The mission of the Human Services Center (HSC) is to provide individuals with a mental health or substance use disorder or both with effective, individualized professional treatment enabling them to achieve their highest level of personal independence in the most therapeutic environment.
The mission of the Division of Behavioral Health is to strengthen and support children, youth and adults with behavioral health needs through prevention and early interventions services, community-based substance use disorder and mental health services, crisis care and recovery support services and psychiatric hospitalization. The goal of the continuum of behavioral health services is to foster independent and healthy individuals and families in South Dakota.
To read previous editions of the Mental Health Memo visit https://dss.sd.gov/keyresources/news.aspx#mhmemo.