Is It Ok To Take Expired Medicine?

Is It Ok To Take Expired Medicine?

As consumers, we are always concerned about the expiry of the food we eat or the medicines we take. After all, it has close relations to our hearts. 

You might wonder who consumes an expired med. But let me tell you, 13.2% of people all over the world ingest outdated medicines. While most of the time, they don’t know about it, other times, they do this on purpose. 

Back to square one: is it ok to take expired medicines? If you are someone who has accidentally swallowed something like that, read this article till the end. 

Risks Associated With Expired Medications

Risks Associated With Expired Medications

In an interview, Reissig said that only some medicines become essentially toxic when they reach an expiration date. Most such medicines lose their effectiveness as the chemical composition alters. 

However, consuming expired meds might have serious repercussions sometimes. For instance, if you ingest a sub-potent antibiotic, it will not treat an infection completely and might double the infection. 

The rule of thumb is not to use any expired medication that seeks a recommended dosage for treating a particular condition or disease. Like Epinephrine pens, Antiplatelets or Anticoagulants for thinning blood, Inhalers, Nitroglycerine tablets, and Seizure medicines. 

These medicines require complete dosage; failing to do so might result in serious health complications. Hence, make sure to stay away from them if they are already out of date. 

If there’s an emergency situation, you can opt for sub-potent therapeutic drugs such as a rescue inhaler or epinephrine pen. However, try to replace the meds as soon as possible. 

How To Determine The Expiration Period?

How To Determine The Expiration Period

Ideally, manufacturers should undergo studies that predict the duration of a medicine’s effectiveness. This particular study must be competent enough to describe how a medicine must be stored in different environmental conditions. 

But think about the time the entire process might take, and we would be left with no medicines at all. Hence, most manufacturers offer a conservative prediction of the medication’s expiry. 

The market is full of medicines that lose stability after the original packaging is torn. So, a pharmacist is likely to have an idea about the drug’s expiration date as soon as he sells it. 

If you find a medicine at home that has no expiration date mentioned, try not to consume it. Although it wouldn’t cause any side effects, it will surprisingly become much less effective. 

If you ask me about the logic, it basically goes like the air and moisture sabotage the pills’ effectiveness. It is indeed common sense to finish a medicine as soon as possible once it is opened. 

Safety Considerations While Consuming An Out-Of-Date Med

Safety Considerations While Consuming An Out-Of-Date Med

It is not too ideal to ingest drugs that have surpassed their effective period. However, in some situations, there might be lower risks. Let’s study them:

  • Short-Term Expiry or Long-Term Expiry: Check which one it is. Of course, nobody would consume a decade-old Acetaminophen. If the expiration date is just a few weeks or days ago, it shouldn’t cause much trouble. 
  • OTC or Over-The-Counter Medicines: Antacids, pain-relievers, or other over-the-counter medicines will have reduced efficiency once they cross their expiry. However, they cause little to no harm when ingested after a certain period. 
  • Lifesaving Drugs: In dire situations, therapeutic drugs such as EpiPens can still provide relief for allergies. However, the effectiveness won’t be the same as a new one. 

So, the question- is it ok to take expired medicine has a plethora of answers. But it depends on how you want to take care of your health. 

Check if it’s for a severe health condition…

A few expired medicines, like ibuprofen that treat headaches are fine. Sadly, that’s not the case with insulin for sugar patients or nitroglycerin to treat angina. 

Both Nitroglycerin and Insulin are two such drugs that might degrade very quickly after reaching their expiry. So, having the wrong dose might cause medical emergencies. 

Using expired medicines for conditions like anaphylaxis is too risky. Make sure you take no medicine rather than taking an outdated one.

Check whether it’s a solid med or a liquid one…

Syrup or liquid medicines are likely to grow bacteria easily as compared to their solid counterparts. Some antibiotics, such as ear drops or eye drops, should never be used past their date of expiry. 

Dr.Hodes says, “Liquids easily become contaminated.” So, any medicine you put in your ears or eyes must be sterile and should be way ahead of its expiry. It instantly increases risk as soon as it gets into the body. 

A lot of liquid medicines have transparent instructions right at the top. Any drug that no longer looks or smells the same must be kept a hand away. 

What To Do When Medications Have Expired? 

What To Do When Medications Have Expired

First things first, do not forget to go through the label carefully. You must follow specific instructions for disposal as well as storage. If possible, attend a drug take-back program that teaches the right way of disposing of expired meds. 

The National Prescription Take-Back Drug Day, for instance, answers crucial concerns related to public health and public safety. Collaborated with the DEA, the program focuses on enlightening people with disposing of outdated drugs. 

This isn’t the only program; various such seminars have been conducted all across the world. Even the Internet is flooded with information on how to store medicines properly. 

Federal guidelines suggest trashing medicines, but not raw ones. Before throwing, make sure to blend them with dirt and seal the mixture in an air-tight container. 

Other medicines must be flushed down the toilet because they are not eco-friendly. Remove the plastic covering and only throw away the medicines in the flush, not the packaging. 

If you find medicines that are close to their expiration, stock them with new ones. Doing so will keep you safe from emergency situations, and you will also not have to waste a penny. 

How To Prevent The Dilemma Of Out-Of-Date Drugs? 

How To Prevent The Dilemma Of Out-Of-Date Drugs

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and so is consuming outdated drugs. You can easily avoid putting yourself in such a situation; just follow a handful of tips: 

Prevent Bulk Purchasing

The temptation of purchasing medicines in bulk is not to be blamed. But trust me, the cons outweigh the pros. There’s no need to buy a giant pack of antacids or pain relievers, even if your doctor prescribes the amount. 

If you are traveling somewhere and purchase a lot of medicines at once, it is likely to come out as a waste. Buy only what’s required and use the right substances at the right time. That’s it!

Be Consistent With Your Meds

There are a variety of medicines available on the market for various health conditions like headaches or painkillers. But changing your drug every now and then isn’t a smart option. 

There are so many people who end up with changes in doses and even medicines. This has an impact on their overall health, too. Don’t be one of such individuals. Instead, stick to your meds and buy only what’s needed. 

Ensure Cleaning Every Now And Then

The grandma’s trick is here! Cleaning your house is one of the best ways to depict medicines on the verge of expiring. Throw them if they have already expired and bring in new ones. 

Meds are not food; you cannot ingest them without purpose. So, the best thing to do is give them to someone else but make sure they haven’t expired yet. This practical tip goes well with people moving out of the city. 

The Smart Way Of Storing Medicines Is Here…

The Smart Way Of Storing Medicines Is Here…

Now that we are already talking about meds in detail let me give you a quick recap of how medicines should be properly stored. Apart from the right places, there are other things that must also be considered. So, let’s have a look:


Oral medicines will remain good to go if you store them at a temperature between 68-77 degrees. The 58-86 degrees is okay but not too perfect. 

Temperature exceeding this range will cause degradation of the meds, which would be of no use even before expiration. 

Even diagnostic testing strips or glucose meters are sensitive to moisture, heat, and cold, which is why storing them at the right temperature is important.

Storage Spaces

Damp places like bathrooms, kitchens, or attics are not great places for storing medicines. Not only do they have a lot of moisture, but the temperatures here are quite excessive. 

The ideal place to store them is your wardrobe or a separate cabinet in the living room. Make sure to keep it away from the reach of children. 

Always store your medicines in a place where you don’t forget them, and they are easily accessible for all adults. 

Final Words

Whenever the question “Is it ok to take expired medicine?” comes into existence, the best answer is NO. But emergency situations can never be predicted. 

So, if you have mistakenly taken an expired medicine, do not panic. Consider the above factors and check which category it falls into. Unless it has major complications, it shouldn’t harm you. 

But what do you think? Should someone take expired medicines or not? It would be interesting to hear from my readers. 

So, comment below and share your thoughts with me. The broader perspective, the better. That being said, it’s a wrap on this one!

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About Author

With an adept skill of curating content on multiple genres, Mony has harnessed success as a Content Writer quickly. Find her sharing profound thoughts and opinions on lifestyle, beauty, fashion, pets, and parenting.

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