Tidy Up: Medicine Cabinet Edition

Tidying up in 2019? Truly, reducing clutter does indeed REDUCE STRESS, so it sparks joy in me, whether or not you follow Marie Kondo’s method. In addition to precision-folded t-shirts, I’d like to encourage you to tackle your MEDICINE CABINET.

First of all, I’m betting you will find WAY-EXPIRED drugs that are at best merely adding clutter, and at worst, INEFFECTIVE when you need them. Take diphenhydramine (popular trade name Benadryl)- if you are grabbing this because you’re having an allergic reaction, you want it to WORK! Obviously the same would be true reaching for migraine, stomach acid, or fever-reduction meds, but at least when those drugs lose effectiveness, the outcome is less likely to be potentially life-threatening.

Second: Antibiotic “leftovers”. JUST SAY NO and PLEASE, LET THEM GO! I know…they were expensive, and you got better after using only a few pills; or your wife had an allergic reaction so she didn’t use all of hers; or you felt better after two days so you stopped; or surely your dog’s antibiotic that has the same name & dose as a human’s prescription should be fine…but seriously, NO!! Antibiotic resistance is REAL. (Exhibit A: down to a single antibiotic that kills gonorrhea, used to be sensitive to multiple classes of meds.) Taking a handful of leftover antibiotics when you are sick is the opposite of helpful! If you have a virus, obviously the antibiotics do nothing except potentially give you bad side effects. If you do have a bacterial infection, taking a few “leftover” antibiotic pills makes the bugs weak and dizzy, not DEAD, then they are tougher to kill.

Third: Prescription drug abuse is at an all time high – no pun intended. Sadly, studies have found that 1 in 5 high school students say they have taken a prescription drug without a prescription. The most common drugs are OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet (narcotic pain pills), Ritalin & Adderall (ADD stimulant drugs), and Xanax (called “bars” because of the shape-an anti-anxiety sedative like valium). Combine ANY of these pills with alcohol (which is frequently the recreational use) and BOOM- the potential for accidental death is huge.

Action Plan: Open those drawers, cabinets, first-aid kits, glove compartments, and wherever you stash your medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, pull out EVERYTHING and spread out on your table or counter. Start with checking expiration dates, and only keep what is still current. Start a shopping list (hey, Alexa!) of essentials that are past-date. Never throw out prescription bottles (even empty ones) without blacking out your personal information. Not sure what to do the old pills themselves? Talk with your local pharmacist or check out this FDA link. Some medications can be mixed with coffee grounds/dirt/cat litter and thrown in the trash, but do not flush down toilets. Once you have eliminated expired medications, reorganize to your heart’s content-alphabetical (for our engineers), symptom or color-coded, whatever. ALWAYS child-proof if you have little ones (meds up high, locked cabinets), and abuse-protect if you have prescriptions with that potential.

Every Item Has It’s Place: Following this tidy up theme, I will add in my pitch for weekly medication boxes. There is a reason birth control pills are labeled with the day of the week, and the truth is people mess up their daily pills ALL THE TIME because they can’t remember whether or not they took their pill(s) with breakfast. Let go of the notion these are for “old” people, and start using one.

BOTTOM LINE: Tidy up the medications in your home to spark better health and do your part to reduce both antibiotic resistance and prescription drug abuse.

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