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8 Reasons You Should Avoid Using Expired Medication

It's 2 am and you're awake with a splitting headache. You stumble into the bathroom and pull out a bottle of Ibuprofen only to see that it's expired. The question is, do you take it and risk the potential dangers?

After all, is expired medicine really any danger?

We are here to argue that it is.

Just like foods, medications have a shelf life. When it comes to your health and safety, consuming expired medicines is simply not worth the risk. Here are 8 compelling reasons you and your loved ones should never take expired medication.

1. Decreased Potency

Just like with some foods, over time, medicine loses its potency. When you're suffering from pains or aches, and the normal dosage recommended on the bottle isn't working, it's probably because the expired medicine isn't as strong or "potent" as it once was.

This is more than just frustrating when you're trying to get relief. It can be potentially dangerous or even life-threatening if it leads to users taking more than the recommended dosage just to get the medicine to "work."

2. Decreased Safety

This may seem like an obvious and potentially broad reason, but it has to be listed. Simply stated, consuming expired medicine just isn't safe.

You don't know what state old medicine is in. You're less likely to know how it's been stored or in what conditions it's been stored in for the last few months or years.

This increases the likelihood of it's being exposed to unfit temperatures or moisture levels. All of which, can make medicine risky to your health if taken.

3. Bacterial Growth

Interestingly, the FDA lists bacterial growth on medicine as one of the many reasons you shouldn't keep it past its expiration date.

Some people may think that because most over-the-counter drugs are mainly chemical-based, they aren't susceptible to bacteria. That's where they'd be wrong.

Given the wrong temperature, storage conditions, moisture levels, or exposure to other chemicals, you can easily get bacteria growing on your medicines.

That's why, when it comes to expired medicine, your motto should be, "When in doubt, throw it out."

4. Less Risk of Accidental Overdose

Accidental overdose and even intentional overdose can occur when you hold onto medicine too long. Even if your prescription hasn't expired, but your need for it (as recommended by your doctor), has ended, an overdose is a serious risk.

Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from opioid overdoses. Holding on to expired or unneeded medicines is one of the greatest risk factors.

For the safety of you and your family, dispose of medicines after you no longer need them. Especially in the case of prescriptions and opioids.

Expired or unneeded medicines can be a temptation or interest to children or others. Don't risk a tragedy. Instead, learn appropriate ways to dispose of medications and always refill your prescription on time.

5. Less Risk of Abuse

Similar to overdose, abuse of prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs is far more likely when they are kept too long. Sometimes abuse can start because expired medicine no longer works as well as it should.

As mentioned, this can lead to users taking more doses than they should because they are trying to get the full effect. Over time, this can create a dependency and lead to abuse of the drug.

6. Less Risk of Antibiotic Resistance

You've probably been told by a doctor to always finish out your antibiotic prescription, even if you start feeling better before the medicine is gone. This is because antibiotics are unique.

If you stop taking your prescription early, your body will not be able to completely defeat its infection. This can lead to a more serious problem called "antibiotic resistance."

Antibiotic resistance means that infections in your body are no longer curred by taking antibiotics. Your body has become immune to the medicine. As you can imagine, this can become a very serious issue and risk to your health.

7. Outdated Recall Info

Unfortunately, while medicines should undergo FDA approval before being prescribed or sold in pharmacies, sometimes problems occur down the road.

On occasion, issues or unforeseen side effects can lead to a medication being recalled. If you're holding onto medicine for months or years, you may be unaware of recalls.

Not only could your medicine be degrading, developing bacteria, or losing its potency, but it could be recalled on top of all this. The last thing you want for you or your loved ones is to unintentionally administer harm instead of help.

8. Degradation

Perhaps one of the scariest potential dangers of consuming expired medications (besides the risk of death or overdose), is the degradation of drugs. Just like food, over time, the chemical compounds used to create medicines degrade.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to unintended side-effects when the medications are taken long past their expiration dates.

As chemicals degrade, changes in the medicine makeup and effects on users can take place. Best not to risk unforeseen side-effects or harm by taking medications that have begun to chemically break down.

Storing Your Medicine

The reasons to throw out expired medicine are many. Keep your medicine fresh longer by carefully reading and following storage directions. Some medicine must be kept in the refrigerator.

Others simply require a cool, dry place. Ironically, the bathroom cabinet may not always be the best place to store medicines. Bathrooms tend to become humid during showers. Humidity can lead to bacterial growth and degradation.

It may be wise to store your medicines according to their expiration date. This will help you more easily keep track of when to throw certain medicines out.

A dresser drawer, out of reach of children, or a high hall closet shelf may be dry, temperate options for safe storage.

How to Throw Out Expired Medicine

Simply throwing expired medicine into the garbage is not the safest way to get rid of it. Some medicines, particularly opioids, have unique requirements for safe disposal.

If you're unsure how to safely throw medicine out, contact your physician. For more healthy tips and hacks, browse our blog.