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It's spring -- clean your medicine cabinet

1st day of Spring marks first-ever "Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day" CR photo

Your medicine cabinet can become a dumping ground for old drugs. But Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs says the risks for accidental poisoning for kids increase with every bottle of pills you keep.

Those leftover pills are far from harmless. Taking them incorrectly or accidentally could be deadly or land a child in the ER. Especially if you’re talking about leftover narcotic painkillers, such as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin. Prescription sleep-aids like Ambien and anti-anxiety medications like Xanax are also problematic. You really want to make sure medications like these are secure, then keep them either locked away or well hidden, out of kids’ reach.

Over-the-counter medicines can also be an issue, particularly if things look and taste like candy. So take care with what you keep on hand. A new, nationally representative Consumer Reports survey found that 19 percent of people hadn’t cleaned out their medicine cabinet in over three years.

National Prescription Drug Take-Back day, on April 29 is the perfect time to turn in leftover and expired medication for safe disposal.

Local law enforcement agencies across the country will provide drive-up or walk-up collections sites where you can drop off old medications of all kinds so they can be safely destroyed. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency says you can find a drop-off location near you on the DEA website starting April 1.

If you throw out your old medicine, always be sure to remove any personal information from the bottle. Then, mix the pills, capsules, patches or liquids with something unappealing, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter, before sealing them tightly in a plastic bag and tossing the bag in the garbage.

Consumer Reports says getting rid of any unused medication also removes the temptation of nosy neighbors or even teens, who may come across the pills and take them.

It's important to point out that while the FDA lists a small number of medicines it says should be flushed down the toilet due to their high potential to cause severe harm, there is also growing concern about the effects of these medicines on marine life.

Many groups concerned with the environmental impacts of flushing medications, as well as the health effects on humans who consume exposed seafood, urge consumers to avoid flushing any medicines down the toilet or sink.

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