Medicycling (or Go ask Alice)

By Nancy Black

“Do not use [name of pharmaceutical product*] if you are allergic to [name of pharmaceutical product],” the soothing female voice-over actress from a commercial said.

“How am I supposed to know if I’m allergic to something if I’ve never tried it?” I responded out loud as I watched late night TV while folding clothes.

OK. So, say I do try a new pill, or lotion or any other kind of remedy for some ailment I have, and it doesn’t work, or I turn out to be allergic to it. What do I do with it now? The pharmacy won’t take it back. I spent too much money to just toss the pill bottle or tube in the trash. Then I think, maybe someday, someone else in the family might have the same problem, so I stash the product underneath the sink or in a medicine cabinet.

That “someday” never seems to come and the next time I happen upon the medicine, it’s all old-looking, expired and I can’t even remember what it treats except to know that it’s for “topical use only.” Now, what do I really do with it?

Have no fear, the FDA is here! The Food and Drug Administration answered all my questions. And it turns out it is a big no-no to give your own prescription medicine to anyone else, family or not. I actually knew that already, but now I’m busted because I’m writing about it.

What I didn’t know, is that it is now quite easy to throw away unwanted or expired pharmaceutical products. Walgreens has “safe medication disposal’ kiosks in many stores.

They look like mail boxes but, instead of letters, you just drop in your old meds. And you can even get rid of old pet medications, too! Just go to and type in your zip code. The site will direct you to the nearest store close to your home.

The City of Dallas also has periodic collection events with other local drug stores and pharmacies.

Visit for more information.

Old drugs not only clutter up medicine cabinets and drawers, they can also be very dangerous — to humans and pets. When I broke my ankle two years ago, I was prescribed Tylenol-3. That’s Tylenol with codeine, an opioid. It made me sick to my stomach when I tried it, so I switched to over the counter Motrin, which means I had pretty much a full bottle of the codeine left.

If my animals or, Heaven forbid, my teenager, had accidently ingested them, gosh knows what would have happened. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suspected opioid overdoses in the U.S. increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017. Many of those deaths are children who got their drugs from their parent’s, or their friend’s parent’s, medicine cabinets.

Cleaning out your old medicines not only creates more room in your medicine chest, it also, in a very real way, makes the world a safer place — one pill at a time.

*Side effects may include hearing, vision and hair loss, high blood pressure, internal bleeding, heart attack, irregular heartbeat, angina, chest pain, narrowing of the aortic valve, heart failure or even death. Consult your doctor before you take [name of pharmaceutical product].