Your Medication Checklist: Taking (and Trashing) Drugs Safely

Man looking at medicine while sitting by woman using laptop computer in kitchen at home

Whether you’re taking “over-the-counter” medication, or a prescription drug from your doctor, it’s easy to lose track of what you take and when. Review health history, and talk with your doctor about the specific medications or supplements that you’re on now, or the ones he/she may be recommending. A medication checklist for the fridge (and a copy to have with you for emergencies) can help keep your meds routine at your fingertips. This “mini chart” should include your name, plus your doctor’s and local drugstore’s phone numbers, at the top. List what medication you take, the start date of taking it, why you take it, how much you take, when you take it, and if you take it with or without food. Include any drug (or supplement) interaction dangers as well (as in, “don’t take this, with that”). Also note when you should stop taking it. Leave room at the bottom to list any of your drug allergies.

More medication tips:

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can take a “generic” drug (it’s the same as the brand name, only cheaper).
  • Follow dosage directions. That includes how much you take, times per day, and whether or not it’s taken with food. Also: Finish what the doctor has given you.
  • Know about drug allergies or side effects before any meds are prescribed. Tell your doctor about any past drug reactions. Your current condition factors may affect what you can take or not. (That includes “natural” remedies or supplements.) Call your doctor with any mild reaction (like a rash), but call 9-1-1 with more extreme symptoms (like inability to breathe, or vomiting).
  • Never share your prescriptions with others! The medication you take is for you and your personal condition needs.
  • Renew expired prescriptions. Don’t take anything past a “use by” date! You won’t be getting the full-strength benefit of a drug that’s past its prime.
  • Generally, don’t pour drugs down the sink or flush down the toilet. While the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does list some select drugs on their website as flushable, note: For homes with septic tanks, drugs can poison humans or animals by getting into the ground and ground water. For areas connected to wastewater treatment plants, drugs can pass into lakes and rivers, harming humans, pets, and wildlife.
  • Call your local trash service about drug take-back events and hazardous waste collection. If those aren’t available, remove drugs from their original containers (but don’t crush pills). Mix with kitty litter or used coffee grounds, and insert into a sealable bag or container with a closed lid for household trash pickup. Remove all personal info from bottle labels. For “sharps” (like needles or insulin pens), use a sharps disposal container found at drug or medical supply stores.

By Lisa Miceli Feliciano

Sources include: www.caregiveraction.org, www.cdc.org, www.fda.gov, www.epa.org

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