I came across a public service announcement from the B.C. Pharmacists Association this week. They are encouraging us to make a New Year’s resolution to dispose of any out-of-date prescription drugs and over the counter medicines that have expired or are of no further use to us. They advise us to take them back to the pharmacy and not dump them down the drain or in the garbage. We are encouraged to start the year by cleaning our drawers and medicine cabinets.
Is that really a task we want to take on? I don’t know about you, but my medicine cabinet is more of a hazardous material storage area than a safe place for drugs. It rivals right up there beside those useless cabinets above the fridge that we put stuff in and then forget it’s ever in there.
The current statistics show that Canadians spend over $24 billion each year on prescription medications. In many cases, we don’t finish the prescription. After all, if we start feeling better it must have worked so maybe we’ll just keep the rest handy in case we start feeling bad again. So we stick it in the medicine cabinet.
Other reports indicate that millions of dollars of drugs are never finished because of improper diagnosis or adverse reaction and we had to stop taking them. But we did pay a tidy sum for them and it’s not easy to just waste them. So we stick them in the medicine cabinet.
Slowly, the shelves fill up. There are a bunch of the little shampoo and conditioner bottles you brought home from the hotels. Some are probably close to being solidified but we move them around and keep them, “just in case.” it’s sort of like the aftershave and cologne that we got for Christmas five years ago. We might use it someday, so just push it to the back for now.
It can sometimes be an adventure looking for stuff you know is there. For instance, last summer I was looking for suntan lotion but couldn’t find it. This winter when I got a scratchy throat, I was moving empty Kleenex boxes to find the cough syrup and I found the suntan lotion behind the big, rarely-used bottle of hydrogen peroxide. I did find the cough syrup, but there was only about a half teaspoon of medicine left stuck to the bottom.
The items we use daily are kept right at the front. As we get older, they change. Long ago it was Clearasil and Brylcreem, now items like Tums and Rub A535 seem to be front and centre, and I’m only speaking from the single male perspective. The married man has to reach far to the back to get his stuff — an exercise that usually ends up knocking everything over. Murphy’s Law dictates the toilet lid will be up when tubes and bottles start cascading out.
The medical professionals warn us that the only difference between a drug and a poison is the dosage. If we have no use for it, don’t save it or junk it, return it to the pharmacy. Keeping it can lead to mix-ups with newer prescriptions.
Speaking of poisons, maybe after you have cleaned out the medicine cabinet, you should put on a haz-mat suit and tackle those Tupperware containers in the back of the fridge.
At least that’s what McGregor says.