Empty orange medication tubes.

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Medication Safety

How To Use Medicines Safely

A pill bottle on its side with pills spilling out.Remember these tips to help you use your medicines safely:

  • Know the name of your medicine.
  • Ask questions to make sure you know how to use the medicine.
  • Know what condition and/or symptom(s) your medicine treats.
  • Read medicine labels and follow directions.
  • Make sure everyone involved in your health care
    knows about all your medicines and anything else
    you take, like vitamins, herbs, and pills you get
    without a prescription.
  • Always keep a list of all your medicines with you.
  • Ask questions about what reactions you could have from your medicine.

Bad Reactions to Your Medicine

If your tongue or mouth begins to swell or if you are having trouble breathing, call 911 immediately. This could be a sign of a life-threatening reaction. For any symptoms or problems that put life in danger, call your doctor, local emergency room, or 911. If you think you are having some other less serious side effect, you can call
your provider or the program’s call center to speak to a pharmacist.

Getting Rid of Unused Medicine

The best way to get rid of unused medicine is through a medication take-back program. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) holds National Prescription Drug Take-Back events twice a year. On these days, they set up places in towns all over the United States where people can drop off their unused medicine.

Your police department or fire department may also have a medicine take-back program. You can also call your waste management company to ask what to do.

If your town doesn’t have a medication take-back program, read the label on your medicine to see if it has instructions on how to dispose of it. If it doesn’t, you can follow these simple steps to get rid of most medicines in the household trash. If you have leftover cancer medicine, ask if your doctor can throw it away for you. Cancer medicines should not be thrown into household trash.

  1. Take the medicine out of the bottle it came in.
  2. Mix the medicine with something that tastes bad, such as dirt, kitty litter or used coffee grounds, but don’t crush tablets or capsules.
  3. Place the mixture in a something that can be closed, such as a zipping plastic bag or disposable container with a lid.
  4. Throw the container in your household trash.
  5. Scratch out your name and all the other personal information on the label of the empty pill bottle, then throw it in the trash.

Never give your unused medicine to friends. Providers give you medicines based on your specific symptoms and medical history. Something that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.

When in doubt about proper disposal, ask your pharmacist.

How to Throw Away Needles, and Other Home-Generated Biomedical Waste

Any type of sharp object, like a needle, syringe, or lancet, you use at home to inject medicine or draw blood is called “home-generated biomedical waste.” You have to be very careful in throwing away these “sharps” to keep yourself and others from getting injured and to keep your home clean and safe. If you use needles, you will also get a sharps container for throwing away needles. Also find out from your local waste management company how they want you to throw away sharps containers.

If you do not have a sharps container, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says you should:

  • Use an empty household container made of heavy-duty plastic that you can’t see through. It should stand upright, and have a tight-fitting lid that a sharp object can’t put a hole in. Two good examples are a laundry detergent bottle and a bleach bottle.
  • When the container is two-thirds full, put the lid on it and seal it with duct tape. Write “DO NOT RECYCLE” on the container and put it in your regular trash.

Stay safe when handling needles:

  • Never replace the cap on needles.
  • Have the sharps container nearby and ready to use before using a needle.
  • Throw used needles away in a sharps container as soon as you finish.

Let your provider know right away if you hurt yourself with a needle stick or have another sharp injury.

If you don’t use needles or other sharps, you don’t need a sharps container. You should put all your used supplies
such as syringes or tubing inside a bag you can’t see through. Put this bag inside a second bag and throw it
away with your other trash. Get more ideas for getting rid of medicines from the FDA or the EPA. Go to the following websites:

FDA.gov (External site)

EPA.gov (External site)

Keeping Your Home Safe

Each year, nearly 21 million people get injured in their homes. We want you and your family to be safe. Here are some ways to help you prevent injuries at home. Check every room in your house and make any changes that will help.

For more information about home safety, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Red Cross websites.

Prevent Falling

  1. Keep the floor clean. Clean up spills right away.
  2. If you have small throw rugs, put rug liners under them, or only use rugs with non-skid backs to keep them from sliding.
  3. Use a non-slip mat or stick adhesive strips in your tub or shower.
  4. Keep telephone, computer, and electrical cords out of walkways.
  5. All stairs and steps need handrails. If you have children, use baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.
  6. Make sure there is plenty of light in all walkways. Use night lights as needed.
  7. Have a flashlight that works.

Prevent Poisoning

  1. Make sure children can’t get to any dangerous materials and liquids, like cleaning products or alcohol.
  2. Keep medicine out of the reach of children.
  3. Know your local poison control number or call 1-800-222-1222 for the Mississippi Poison Control Center. In case of emergency, call 911.
The Mississippi Poison Control Center is open every day, 24 hours a day, to help people who have been poisoned. They can tell you what steps you need to take based on the kind and amount of poison you have had.