Pharmacies play a critical part in our medical infrastructure. Your doctor has extensive training on treating your medical condition and giving you the appropriate prescriptions, but the pharmacists who staff pharmacies at your local drug store or grocery store actually have go through more education in order to wear that lab coat. The job of the pharmacist is to run the pharmacies safely and efficiently, and to make sure your prescriptions are delivered accurately and that you understand the proper administration of them.
Once the medications are outside of the doors of the pharmacies, the responsibility of safe and effective administration of the drugs falls on your shoulders. Unfortunately, some of the best medication practices are unknown by most people who take medicine on a daily basis. Here are a few things that your pharmacist wish you knew:
- Your medicine cabinet is not a good place to store medication.
Despite what the name suggests, do not store your medicine in a medicine cabinet in your bathroom. Keep your toothbrush in there. Your dental floss. Your unmentionable toiletries. But not your medicine. The bathroom regularly has stark environmental changes. While you shower, it gets very humid and very hot. And then in between showers, the environment cools and dries. And then humid again during the next shower. This constant change in temperature and humidity can cause medication to break down and go bad before its expiration date. This makes them less effective, at best. In some cases, it could be dangerous to your health.
The best place to store your medication is a high cabinet in your kitchen, or in a safe. Somewhere cool and dry, and — most importantly — difficult for children to get their hands on.
- Just because something is over-the-counter, doesn’t make it safe.
Just because a medication can be purchased without a prescription doesn’t mean that you can take it without caution, with any other combination of other prescription or over-the-counter medications. Over-the-counter drugs can be just as dangerous as prescription medication if taken improperly. In fact, because many over-the-counter medications use the same ingredients, it’s very easy to overdose without knowing it if you combine drugs. Before taking an over-the-counter drug, read the instructions carefully. Don’t hesitate to call your local pharmacy and check if an over-the-counter drug has any adverse reaction with any of your prescriptions, if you are unsure.
While we’re on the subject, just because something is labeled “natural” doesn’t make it safe to use without caution. Before taking any herbs, supplements, or essential oils, make sure you are taking only the appropriate dosage, and that they don’t interact with anything else you are taking.
- Every action has an equal or opposite reaction.
All medications have side effects. Every one of them. Being heavy-handed with your medications can be worse for your health than not taking medications at all. Before taking any medications, make sure you understand the risk you are taking and that it is worth the treatment. Furthermore, sometimes a combination of drugs can trigger a reaction that can be dangerous to your health. When you pick up a prescription, make sure you talk to your pharmacist about other medication you are taking, to ensure they don’t have a negative interaction with each other.
- You should not flush your medications down the toilet.
It seems like a safe way to dispose of medication to flush them down the toilet. Then you know that no wildlife or even people can get to them. However, not all medications are water-soluble. If the medication doesn’t breakdown through the regular water filtration process, it could end up in the drinking water supply, which is dangerous to public health.
So what is the best way to dispose of medication? Once again, ask your pharmacist about this. Some pharmacies have medication take-back programs for drugs that are leftover or expired. If the medication is a controlled substance, there is a specific process you should follow to dispose of them. Some medications you can flush away. Your pharmacist will be happy your specific medication with you.
Do you have any questions about handling medications? Please share below, or call your local pharmacist!