Does medicine expire? : Signs of expired medicine in 2024 

Does medicine expire?

A display of medicine

Medicine can expire. But there’s a catch. Just like packaged food, drug manufacturers all around the world are required to provide an expiration date for medications. However, the expiration date of medicines doesn’t mean that you’ll get hurt, but more of a period of its potency. Basically after the expiration date, the drug manufacturers can’t guarantee the drug will be a hundred percent potent, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be unsafe or less effective. However, the FDA does advise you to listen to the expiration dates, they caution that a medicine that has gone bad could be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or decrease in potency. 

Many things can affect the effectiveness of a drug, like storage. However, some evidence proclaims that some medicines can hold their potency longer, especially when they’re in controlled conditions. 

The FDA conducted a study on behalf of the military, and they found ways to extend the life of medicines in storage, in a program called SLEP (Shelf Life Extension Program). They were able to prolong the life of 88% of the drugs in government facilities by at least a year, by simply keeping them in a controlled climate storage. Most of the drugs lasted an average of five and a half years past the expiration date. 

Normal civilians may not have a tightly controlled storage facility at their disposal, but most do have a fridge. Most experts recommend that you store your medicine in a cool, dry, place, to extend the life of your medication. 

But is it also possible for drugs to last longer than five years without sitting in the government’s fridge or even yours?

A study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that some medicines can actually stay good for decades. In this study, all the drugs were 28-40 years past their due date. However, this was done with 8 medications with about 15 different compounds between them, like caffeine, aspirin, or hydrocodone. They discovered that 12 of those compounds were at least 90% potent, decades after their expiration date. According to the FDA, 90 percent is considered effective. 

Most of these medicines didn’t break down or lose their potency, even after decades. However, the same couldn’t be said concerning aspirin and amphetamine, as they seemed to lose some of the good stuff after all that time. There were present amounts less than 90 percent which particularly didn’t meet the standard. However, does this mean you should be around taking medicine that’s passed its expiration date? Well the FDA did say you should heed to the date the manufacturer placed on the bottle. 

Also, Ilisa Bernstein, a senior vice president of the American Pharmacists Association advises not to use expired medicine. 

Overall, it is possible that your medicine can still be good, even after the expiration date, but to keep it safe, listen to the FDA. Let the expired be expired. 

Unavoidable signs that could mean your medicine has expired 

A woman feeling weird after taking an expired medicine

1 . Unusual smell

When your medicine begins to have an unpleasant smell or a different smell, it might mean that the composition of the medication has changed. And you shouldn’t ignore this.

2 . Change in color or appearance 

If the color, texture, or firmness has changed, it could be a sign of deterioration. For example, if the color of your medicine is white and it suddenly changes to yellow, take a step back. 

3 . A difference in taste 

The medication shouldn’t have a different taste. Your medicine should taste the same as when you just bought it, but if it starts tasting weird, stop using it. 

4 . Breakage

Broken tablets may not be safe for you to use. Any noticeable changes in the physical form of the medication may be bad.

5 . Faded packaging 

Exposure to light can affect some medications in different ways, one of which is the packaging or labels. Any form of fading may mean that it has been compromised.

My super quick ways to check on the state of your medicine 

1 . Look at the expiration date

Just check the body of the medicine for a clearly marked expiration date. It’s mostly printed on the packaging. 

2 . Carry out a quick inspection of the packaging.

Look for any signs of damage or discoloration on the packaging. Things like faded writing, unusual spots, or even changes in color. 

3 . Check for changes in appearance 

Examine the tablets for changes in color and texture. 

4 . Smell it

Take a quick sniff at it and see if it still has the same smell as when you purchased it.

Newsflash your medicine can still expire before its due date

Yes, you can take your medicine to its early grave even before its time. Your storage skills can make or break its potency. 

Steal my top strategies on how to store your medicine at home

Storing medicine at home

1 . Cool, dry place

Store medications in a cool, dry place. Avoid putting them in areas with high humidity, like your bathroom cabinet. The moisture there can be horrible for medicine storage. 

2 . Secure location 

Keep medications in a safe place, far away from the reach of children or pets. You can use child-resistant containers or put them in a high, and locked cabinet. And always remember to put them back in that position after use. Never get carried away and place them on the couch or kitchen cabinet. 

3 . Keep away from sunlight 

Exposing your medicine to direct sunlight or even strong artificial light can degrade them. Dark places is a good way to keep them. 

4 . Check for special instructions 

Some medications, especially liquid formulations, can require a special storage style, such as using the refrigerator, which is why you should always check the labels and follow the instructions thoroughly.

5 . Organize medications 

Place the medications in an orderly manner, and clearly label them to keep things organized. This can be really helpful to locate them faster and also ensure you’re taking the correct amount of dosage.  

6 . Don’t put all the medications together

In a case where you’re using multiple medications, avoid mixing or storing them together, unless your healthcare provider approves. This is because some medications may interact adversely with each other.

7 . Keep an eye on expiration dates 

Solely knowing when a medicine will expire isn’t enough. It is important to regularly check the expiration dates as a form of reminder because you could easily forget and pass the time. 

4 Smart ways to dispose of medicine if it has expired

Disposing expired medicine

1 . Drug-take back location

Many pharmacies and healthcare facilities offer take-back programs. Check with your local pharmacy or a police station, as they may offer on-site medicine drop-off boxes, mail-back programs, or in-home disposal products. 

2 . FDA flush list

Medicines on the flush list are usually very dangerous if ingested by children, pets, or others in your home. The FDA has a list of certain medications such as opioids, to be safely flushed down the toilet when take-back options are not readily available. Do not flush any medicine that is not on the Flush list. 

3 . Household thrash 

FDA recommends that you mix them with an unappealing substance such as dirty, cat litter, or used coffee grounds, don’t crush them. Then place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag before throwing it away

4 . Remove your personal information 

Before throwing any medicine away, remove personal information from the medication packaging to protect your privacy. You can scratch it out with a permanent marker. Many people don’t remember to do this but now that you know you’re one step ahead. You can help others by sharing this information with them to help them as well. 

My reasons why you shouldn’t take expired medications

As discussed above, it’s very possible for your medication to still be effective and safe to use after expiration, but I don’t advise you to take it. Even the FDA recommends not taking expired medications. It’s better to be on the safe side of things no matter how tempting it may feel to use that cough syrup at 2 am. Unlike the results of taking expired food or drinks, it’s not the same as taking expired medicine. 

Expired food and drinks can hurt you and cause damage to your gut, but it’s not particularly the same event with expired medicine. However, some people may beg to differ. On platforms like YouTube for example, on the topic of expired medication, a lot of people in the comment section on several videos complained of some symptoms. Such as:

  • headache
  • body pain
  • fever 
  • stomach pain
  • dizziness
  • hallucinations 

Even with these symptoms they had, others spoke about the medication working perfectly fine even after expiration. Everyone is different and their bodies react differently to things as well. You may not know how sensitive you are, which is why you shouldn’t engage in things like taking expired medication. Regardless of sensitivity, when something is past its due date, it’s best to not eat or drink it. 

The effects of taking expired substances may not show until much later. Who even knows why some people develop several illnesses? It could be due to the constant certain lifestyle choices they made. If you’re ill or develop some form of symptoms, it’s best to get new medications and treat yourself. Even if starts late at night, like a sore throat, for example, look up some home remedies online that can offer short-term advice, and then visit a local pharmacy the next morning. 

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