A Simple Mission for the New Year, Should You Choose to Accept It

Here’s a great project for the start of a new year: clean out your spice cabinet and your medicine cabinet. We did the medicine cabinet at my mother-in-law’s place and ended up filling several trash bags with old, expired, and no-longer-usable meds, and clearing out a lot of space in the cabinet.

A lot of people get paralyzed about discarding medications because they either don’t want to waste a medication that might still be good, or are afraid that there is some kind of legal liability. I will save you some time. In general, there’s no system for recycling prescription medications that are still good or not expired. There may be clinics here and there that do that, and I wish more of them existed, but in almost every case, there is nothing you can do with those medications but throw them away.

I was told to try veterinary clinics, but I did that with some of my mother’s meds and it was a total failure. I called and at their behest drove the meds all the way to the clinic (30 minutes). Later the same day, they called and demanded I come and take them back. I refused, and had a brief argument with them until they finally agreed to just throw them away. Again, there’s a mistaken belief that there is some legal and appropriate way to throw them out. There isn’t. Just throw them out. (The exception may be some very specialized medications. For example, my mother once used a medication that the company explicitly insisted must be sent back if unused.)

For the spice cabinet, after you’ve cleared out the obviously old stuff, take a Sharpie marker and write ’12’ on the remaining bottles. Then you’re all set for next year.