Expired Medications: Will They Still Work?

So, you’re really hungry for pizza, but have no cash. You remember that you had pizza about 2 weeks ago and didn’t eat all of it. Upon digging in the recesses of your refrigerator, you find the well known cardboard box with its usual grease stains. Inside is something fossilized that resembles what a pizza would have looked like back in the Jurassic period with its own topiary garden. What should you do? Eat it anyway and hope for the best? Absolutely not! What makes you think that your medication would be any different?

We’ve all been there: We need to take some medication, be it over-the-counter or a prescription, and you find that it has expired. It is tempting to take the gamble that it may still work. This should be avoided. These are chemicals that we trust to heal us and yet we are quicker to take expired medication for a condition rather than eat old pizza to stave off the munchies.

Medications are not immortal. Due to their very nature, they react to the environment around them and breakdown over a period of time. That gel cap may look like a defensive shield for the precious contents inside, but it’s no more than a water-soluble container, not a titanium ship hull. Always keep track of the location of all medications in the home as well as their expiration dates and dispose of them properly.

The most effective way to dispose of medications is by flushing them down the toilet. You may feel that you are destroying evidence, but it’s the best protection if you have pets or children who on occasion get into the garbage.

Expired medications at best will do nothing. Do not even count on it to work as it should. Some medications run the risk of becoming toxic after their expiration date as it starts to breakdown. If there is an odor coming from uncoated pills, take the hint and get rid of it. Aspirin, luckily, may smell like vinegar to warn you, but not many medications have clues like that. Gel caps may stick together, pills break apart or change color and ointments may separate. Always look at the expiration dates. The dangers far outweigh the benefits in these situations. Go through the medicine cabinet every six months and get rid of any expired medications. It will be a relief to know what you actually have on hand in case of an emergency. If you do attempt to eat the fossilized pizza, the last thing you need is a burned-out antacid.

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