The Dangers of Expired Drugs

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(WVLT) - You probably wouldn't consider drinking milk past its expiration date. But have you considered how old that bottle of Tylenol is in your medicine cabinet?

Volunteer TV's Jessa Goddard has the details on how to get the best shelf life out of your medications and the danger of popping pills past their prime.

"Unfortunately, medicine cabinets have not always been the best place, because of the temperature and the moisture, because of the shower and everything," said Nurse Practitioner Melanie Dodson

Dodson says the bathroom is actually the worst place to store medication, because it's generally humid and the temperature rises and falls on a regular basis.

To maintain its shelf life, you should store medication in a place where the temperature remains constant, away from heat, sunlight and humidity.

Expired medications aren't always dangerous, but they can become weak and possibly ineffective after the use by date.

"It can break them down, the chemicals in them, making them not as effective, or sometimes even more potent, which can be dangerous," said Dodson.

Expired medication in liquid and pill form may change in color and consistency.

Liquids separate and pills deteriorate over time, but often these changes aren't as obvious.

"Say you're taking an older antibiotic, I think that's the best example, people take you know, three of them and put the rest up and when they get sick they just say I'll take this leftover antibiotic, and it's just not effective, so they can get much sicker," she said.

You should always take an antibiotic for the length of time it's prescribed, or as directed by your doctor.

Not finishing a prescription not only allows the bacteria in your body to remain alive, but also contributes to the increasing problem of antibiotic resistance.

When medication does expire, don't dispose of pills by throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet.

That can pollute landfills and contaminate ground water.

You should call your local pharmacy.

Many now take expired medications and safely dispose of them, as a service to you.

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