Stop storing your medications in the medicine cabinet

The American medicine cabinet has always perplexed me. Its name would suggest a primary function for holding medications, but it also holds shavers, toothbrushes, cotton buds, and floss. It‘s a space where something as delicate as the medication is being stored alongside tools that help slough off the dirt from our orifices.

So I’m here today with a PSA: stop storing your medications in the medicine cabinet that’s in your bathroom.

Here are the top 3 reasons why:

  1. Plastic pill bottles are not water-proof

While they may be hard to open, orange pill bottles are not waterproof. The plastic bottles are rigid and hard to break into by force, but water and steam can easily slip in through where the cap and the bottle meets. The bathroom, being a place filled with many water sources, is a dangerous place for a non-waterproof container to reside in.

2. Hot showers = humidity

Most medications are water-soluble and very hydrophilic. If you have ever left a pill on your tongue for longer than it takes to reach a cup of water, you know all too well what I mean.

Our modern bathrooms are incredibly humid, especially after a hot shower. The humidity can damage the integrity and decrease the potency of your medications.

That’s exactly how pills are made to be: stable only at dry and room temperature environments (like at factories, pharmacies, and hospitals) but they are engineered to melt and dissolve quickly once in contact with water (like when you take it with a gulp of water).

3. Sneaky hands

The medicine cabinet has become the primary source of drugs for pre-teens to steal from. Unsuspecting parents or relatives that store medications in their bathrooms may unknowingly create a source for drugs right in their household. Over the past decade, prescription-medication overdoses (not street drugs) in teenagers have been on the rise in large part due to poor medication security and storage.

The bathroom is one of the most accessible spaces for children and guests. Just as you would secure lethal weapons or poisons in your house, you should store your prescription medications safely in a space out of reach for children, teenagers, and guests.

While doing research on the etiology of the name, I discovered that its naming was intentional. Following the 1918 influenza outbreak, there was strong public health interest in encouraging people to use indoor bathrooms instead of outhouses. Public health advocates began advising consumers to store common remedies in their bathrooms, inside an aptly named “medicine cabinet” to equate it as a place of health and wellness.

1926 catalog photo of a medicine cabinet

Fast forward 100 years, the bathroom and medications are now two entirely different beasts. The modern bathroom now boasts year-round hot water and high-pressure showerheads, while modern medications have gone from home remedies to powerful medications that can both cure and kill.

There are many other places in the home that are less humid and more secure for storing medications. Bedrooms and kitchens (away from the stove) are two examples of excellent environments to store medications. Meanwhile, if you often have guests or children, consider investing in medication lock boxes to securely store your medications.

Whatever it is, keep it out of the bathroom!

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Health & Sustainability | Pharmacy | Activist | Immigrant

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Melinda Lee

Melinda Lee

Health & Sustainability | Pharmacy | Activist | Immigrant

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