Medicine cabinet makeover

New Jersey

Like any cupboard in your house, the medicine cabinet can easily become overstuffed with pills, potions, and creams that have expired or are no longer needed. But holding on to them can be dangerous. That’s why experts recommend weeding through your medicine cabinet regularly. “Check it every six months or when you change your clocks,” recommends Joanne Doyle Petrongolo, a pharmacist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “Make it a regular habit to protect your family.”

Medicine cabinet risks

For all their value, the substances in your medicine cabinet pose some risks beyond the side effects of the drugs:

Accidental poisoning. The CDC reports that unintentional overdoses among children ages 5 or younger results in 60,000 emergency room visits each year. More than 90% involve children who get into medication on their own.

Drug abuse by other family members. Research suggests that 60% of people who misused opioids in 2015 did not have a prescription, and 40% obtained the drugs from family or friends.

When medicines are outdated or unnecessary, these risks become unacceptable. In addition, if medications have expired they may no longer be as potent. That could be very dangerous, for example, if you’re taking a drug for an unstable heart rhythm.

Expiration vs. dispensing dates

When you get a prescription drug, the label on the bottle is stamped with the dispensing date (the day the pharmacist filled your prescription). But the dispensing date is not the same as the expiration date.

“The expiration date is the day the manufacturer can no longer guarantee 100% potency of the product,” Doyle Petrongolo explains. “You won’t see expiration dates on prescription medications, but they’re generally within one or two years of the dispensing date.”

You will see expiration dates on nonprescription drugs, such as anti-itch creams like hydrocortisone or over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). The dates may be stamped on product’s label, box, or crimp (the end of a tube).

Beyond expiration

Can you use a product beyond the expiration date? “It depends,” says Doyle Petrongolo. “Some products degrade quickly, including liquid antibiotics and compounded medications. You should get rid of those immediately after the expiration dates stamped on the label.” Compounded medications are created just for you and made in a form you can tolerate, such as a suspension liquid instead of a pill.

What about other products? Some government studies have suggested that many prescription drugs are good even three years after the expiration date. Should you automatically apply such an extension when you see that a remedy in your medicine cabinet has expired? “It’s best to talk to your pharmacist first, since each medication has different stability properties,” Doyle Petrongolo counsels. She recommends that you don’t keep drugs that have been shown to fail stability tests past expiration dates, such as aspirin, nitroglycerin, and insulin.

Medicine cabinet staplesKeep these basic nonprescription remedies on hand to help provide relief when you need it.Aspirin for emergency heart attack response (chew one 325-mg tablet and call 911 if you think you’re having a heart attack)Painkiller, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol)Hydrocortisone cream for itch reliefAntibiotic ointment for minor cutsAntacid for heartburn, such as combination magnesium and aluminum (Maalox, Mylanta)Artificial tears to relieve dry eyesAn antihistamine for allergy relief or itching, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)A medicine for diarrhea, such as loperamide (Imodium)


Don’t just throw old medications in the garbage, where they can wind up in the landfill, and don’t automatically flush them down the toilet, where they can wind up in the water supply.

The FDA urges you to dispose of medications properly. The best way is to take advantage of drug take-back events held by local law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sponsors these events every April and October; for information and collection sites, see In addition, many communities and hospitals have drop boxes you can use all year round.

Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

 “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25

 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” – Luke 12:25

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” – James 1:2-3

 “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:6

 “Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.”- Proverbs 16:3

 “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Luke 12:24 – Luke 12:24

 “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” – Matthew 15:11

Recommended contacts for prayer request and Bible study

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