The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 06-06-2010, 01:57 AM
Banquo Banquo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Is it illegal to keep your expired painkillers?

I have no insurance. its a pain in the arse, and every so often , a pain in the head. I get migraines. For those of you not privy to the firsthand knowledge of what those are like, it's not "aw man, my head hurts", it's more like "please make it stop". From my experience, like many others, the best treatment is old-fashioned opioid painkillers.

if i had a bottle of a narcotic analgesic that was prescribed to me 2 years ago, would i be breaking the law if i kept it? I've tried to find some reliable information on this but most searches turn up results by "addiction help" sites saying that they should be thrown out because they are "poisonous" or will lead you down a dark path to damnation. i would think that the information would be more readily available on the legality of this. Anyone know?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 06-06-2010, 02:31 AM
panache45 panache45 is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: NE Ohio (the 'burbs)
Posts: 21,965
Why would it be illegal? The expiration date is an (inaccurate) indication of the drug's effectiveness; it doesn't stop being legal on that date. You paid for the meds, they are yours. I don't see how anything else is relevant.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 06-06-2010, 04:59 AM
Lacunae Matata Lacunae Matata is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Definitely not illegal. The expiration date is only a good estimate of when some component of the medication might begin to be less effective. Keep your prescription meds in a container with your name on it (preferably the one you received from the pharmacy) if you're worried about the legalities, but the Expired Drug Police won't come after you just because your meds allegedly went off yesterday.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 06-06-2010, 10:12 AM
Qwakkeddup Qwakkeddup is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
If you have kept drugs beyond the expiry date, I would think you aren't addicted or abusing them.

Just watch for signs of deterioration.

With younger children in the house, it may be prudent to actually lock them up for storage or dispose of them though.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 06-06-2010, 10:35 AM
Khadaji Khadaji is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Southern Pennsylvania
Posts: 21,601
I don't know, but I do know that when I asked my doc how to dispose of them, she simply said that I should lock them in a safe container.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 06-06-2010, 10:51 AM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Every single prescription I use (and that is at least 6 every month) has an expiration date exactly a year after I filled it. This is impossible and ther result of it is that the expiration date on prescription drugs is useless.

I have a bottle of 50 pills of some narcotic that I got over five years ago when I broke my ankle. I never used even one. I guess I should discard it. But I remember the time, 17 years ago when I had a back attack so severe I could not get out of bed and no doctor would prescribe a pain killer without an examination and doctors don't make house calls any more. It lasted over a month. So I like having an emergency narcotic around.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 06-06-2010, 10:57 AM
BigT BigT is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
<nevermind>

Last edited by BigT; 06-06-2010 at 10:57 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 06-06-2010, 03:23 PM
Al Bundy Al Bundy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Weigh the risk

I have some in my medicine cabinet from 1985. Obviously, I'm not a big drug user. In an emergency, I believe I would take them. I would have more confidence in them than some older bullets that I have set aside.

Most drugs lose effectiveness in varying degrees over time, yet are not toxic. There are a few exception where a chemical change takes place that may put someone at risk. Search the Internet for your medication and see if anything pops up.

For the most part, the expiration date is about trying to guarantee a certain dosage effectiveness up to a point in time. They have to draw the line somewhere so it's often one year.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 06-06-2010, 04:13 PM
Hirka T'Bawa Hirka T'Bawa is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Conyers, GA, USA
Posts: 1,301
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post
Every single prescription I use (and that is at least 6 every month) has an expiration date exactly a year after I filled it. This is impossible and ther result of it is that the expiration date on prescription drugs is useless.
There is actually a reason for this. According to USP guidelines, when a medication is dispensed from a pharmacy, the expiration date is set at 1 year, or the date on the stock bottle, whichever is shorter. The reason for this is because once you take a medication home, there is no one to guarantee the storage conditions of the medication. Most drugs are suppose to be stored in a cool dry place around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This could be totally different then the bathroom medicine cabinets that most people store their drugs, so USP guidelines error on the side of caution.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 06-06-2010, 10:11 PM
Sarabellum1976 Sarabellum1976 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Drug companies have a tradition of "under promise, over deliver" when it comes to expiration dates and retained efficacy.

One company I worked for did an internal, not-for-publish study that indicated that a particular diet med they were producing had a shelf life (with no loss in effectiveness) of 45-55 years. What did they stamp on it? 1 year from dispense. Maybe those things would be good for 100 years or more if stored in perfect lab conditions, who knows? They only bothered recreating the environments to simulate for 50 years and it came out fine.

Interesting side note: The actual composition of many gel-coated tablets? A hefty percentage of good old confectioner's sugar. The "active ingredient" portion is usually less than 25% of the tablet, and maybe as low as 2%. The reason for this is the dosage needs to wind up a decent sized pill, as people feel a bit cheated (plus the inconvenience of handling) ultra-tiny tablets. Active ingredients can be shockingly potent for their size.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 06-07-2010, 01:20 AM
Cardinal Cardinal is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: 742 Evergreen Terrace
Posts: 6,012
Oh yes. My mom is a Nurse Practitioner, and she says the smallest dosage she's seen, IIRC, is 50 micrograms, which would be 5 milligrams. 5 FREAKING ONE THOUSANDTH of a gram. My god, that's potent stuff, whatever it is.

Cyanide is a famous classic poison, and I find this:

"LD50s for hydrogen cyanide have been estimated to be 1.1 mg/kg for intravenous administration and 100 mg/kg after skin exposure. The oral LD50s for sodium and potassium cyanide are about 100 and 200 mg/kg respectively."

Meaning that a large man of 100Kg would need 20 grams of KCN to have a 50/50 chance of killing him. The point being that something delivered in the microgram scale is indeed "shockingly potent." And I guess the stomach's digestion really dulls the effectiveness of cyanide.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 06-07-2010, 01:44 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 2,931
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cardinal View Post
Oh yes. My mom is a Nurse Practitioner, and she says the smallest dosage she's seen, IIRC, is 50 micrograms, which would be 5 milligrams.
nitpick: 0.05 milligrams actually. So it's even worse!
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 06-07-2010, 09:34 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: At the Diogenes Club
Posts: 45,212
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarabellum1976 View Post
Drug companies have a tradition of "under promise, over deliver" when it comes to expiration dates and retained efficacy....
"All of the pain medication these days is 'Super' this and 'Extra-strength' that. It's like the drug company PR guy goes to the lab boys and says, 'Make this strong enough to kill me, and then baaaaaack it off just a little.'" - Jerry Seinfeld
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 06-07-2010, 03:45 PM
mnemosyne mnemosyne is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Montréal, Québec
Posts: 8,769
Quote:
Originally Posted by panache45 View Post
The expiration date is an (inaccurate) indication of the drug's effectiveness...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lacunae Matata View Post
The expiration date is only a good estimate of when some component of the medication might begin to be less effective.
Not quite. If you have the original packaging (and you would, for an OTC drug, but would not if the medicine was dispensed in a pharmacy; the pharmacy has the original bulk package), then the expiration date on the package refers to the amount of time for which the drug has been shown to be stable, as required by law.

It is not a measure of drug effectiveness. It is not a time point at which the drug (might) begin to become less effective.

It is a time point at which the law no longer requires the product to be tested for stability and safety and therefore the manufacturer has not tested it further. Beyond this point (or, likely, a couple of months past that date, as a liability buffer), there is no data to tell you whether the drug is still useful, whether it has degraded into nothing more than a placebo, or whether it has degraded into something which may be toxic or cause complications for the medical condition you are attempting to treat.

Clearly expiration dates are not time bombs; the drug doesn't begin to self-destruct the day after the date on the label, but also clearly at some future point in time the drug will have degraded to some degree, only no one has studied when or by what mechanism that will occur, because they are not required to. Any data regarding this you may find on the internet does not come from a pharmaceutical company, since they do not test for what happens to a drug after the point when no one should be using it anyways.

While some drugs might be shown to be stable for 40, 50, 100 years, this cannot - by any means - be taken as meaningful for any other drug (or even for another formulation of the same drug). What happens to Tylenol has fuck all to do with what happens to etanercept or civamide or methotrexate anything else.

Taking an expired medication is taking a risk and there is no one who can give you any information whatsoever about how big that risk is.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post
Every single prescription I use (and that is at least 6 every month) has an expiration date exactly a year after I filled it. This is impossible and ther result of it is that the expiration date on prescription drugs is useless.
The one-year expiration date on prescription medications has to do with pharmacy dispensing laws. It also has the added benefit of making you return to see your doctor if your condition does not improve and you run out of medicine. The product's expiration date as determined by the research and development that went into the drug design is on the original packaging (and company documentation regarding the specific lot number) and your pharmacist has that.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 06-07-2010, 08:49 PM
usedtobe usedtobe is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Um... I think I saw this in a magazine... How many "mic's" of LSD for a really good time? THERE is a potent drug.

Nobody has approached the point in which this topic hits BOTH medical AND legal advice:

If the prescription as in "the doctor's permission to have the stuff" in the first place - not the paper, not the pills, not the package - the doctor told you to take x every y often FOR 10 DAYS - and that was 5 years ago. During those 10 days, it was legal for you to have them.
How about now? Where is a doctor's (or a court's) PERMISSION to have those nasty drugs?
Doctors? Lawyers?
Mods llocking this thread?
5...4...3...

Last edited by usedtobe; 06-07-2010 at 08:50 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 06-07-2010, 10:17 PM
kittenblue kittenblue is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Posts: 6,407
But a prescription isn't a document saying it's only legal for you to HAVE them for use on x-number of days. Just that it is legal for the pharmacy to SELL you x-amount of the drug for a time period specified, or amount of refills specified. What you do with it afterwards is pretty much your business, as long as you don't sell a controlled substance to anyone else. But the pharmacy doesn't come to your house to search for unused tablets on the eleventh day...why would you get the idea it is illegal to possess them after the dosage time?
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 06-07-2010, 10:31 PM
Magiver Magiver is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Banquo View Post
I have no insurance. its a pain in the arse, and every so often , a pain in the head. I get migraines. For those of you not privy to the firsthand knowledge of what those are like, it's not "aw man, my head hurts", it's more like "please make it stop". From my experience, like many others, the best treatment is old-fashioned opioid painkillers.

if i had a bottle of a narcotic analgesic that was prescribed to me 2 years ago, would i be breaking the law if i kept it? I've tried to find some reliable information on this but most searches turn up results by "addiction help" sites saying that they should be thrown out because they are "poisonous" or will lead you down a dark path to damnation. i would think that the information would be more readily available on the legality of this. Anyone know?
I can't answer your drug question but having battled migraines I would like to hear what you're going through. How do they start?
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 06-08-2010, 01:04 AM
usedtobe usedtobe is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by kittenblue View Post
<snip>...why would you get the idea it is illegal to possess them after the dosage time?
Um, the fact that,absent some authority, it IS illegal to have them. If it was illegal to have them the day BEFORE the 'script was written, and I'm reasonably certain that I would not get too far arguing that "But your honor, I HAD a script for them in 1983, so it must be OK for me to have them now".

This is a matter that 'it didn't used to be legal for me to have them, then it was' - at what time does that permission expire?

Any cop who would let me slide with "those are just unused ones from 1983" is probably not destined for a long career.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 07-26-2010, 07:39 PM
Banquo Banquo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
[/QUOTE] I can't answer your drug question but having battled migraines I would like to hear what you're going through. How do they start?[/QUOTE]


For me it starts with the chills. it could be 90 degrees and i will begin to shudder. Then I start to feel a bit down, like drained and a little sad. After that is when the fun begins. I will start to get a blur in one eye. It will look a bit like water as runs down your windshield. The blur will start in the far side of my field of vision and work it's way in until i am blind in that eye. After about 20-30 minutes the blur will begin to vanish and the nausea and pain will begin. Although one time I got the aura and had no migraine.....weird.

[/QUOTE]If you have kept drugs beyond the expiry date, I would think you aren't addicted or abusing them[/QUOTE]

What assumption are you basing that on? If I were addicted, wouldn't the meds be taken before they had a chance to expire?
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 07-26-2010, 08:12 PM
Cub Mistress Cub Mistress is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Middle Tennessee
Posts: 2,486
I agree that it is not illegal to possess outdated medications in your home, but trouble might arise if you actually take them. If your job has drug testing (random or event based) and you test positive for narcotics, showing a script for said narcotics dated 2 years ago right after your appendectomy is probably not going to cut it with your employer.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 07-26-2010, 08:27 PM
ChrisBooth12 ChrisBooth12 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Why would it be illegal? Totally unenforceable. What jobs test for pills though? Lots of pain killers will show up positive for an opioid but after showing them the bottle and saying you had a migraine I cannot expect anyone getting fired for that. Maybe for jobs that require you to use machinery but even that
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 07-26-2010, 10:02 PM
Amblydoper Amblydoper is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
What does a job related drug test have to do with legality of expired prescription drugs?
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 07-27-2010, 06:52 AM
Khadaji Khadaji is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Southern Pennsylvania
Posts: 21,601
If it is illegal, my GP needs to be told. I asked her how to dispose of them and she said the best thing to do was to seal them up and store them out of reach of children...
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 07-27-2010, 11:22 AM
purplehorseshoe purplehorseshoe is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Texas, USA
Posts: 7,600
Oh, Lordy, if it's illegal to keep expired meds, my mother can expect the paddywagon at any minute. I've found ointments and OTCs and things in her medicine cabinet that had been expired close to a decade. Lock her up! Throw away the key!
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 07-27-2010, 11:31 AM
Long Time Lurker Long Time Lurker is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by usedtobe View Post
Um, the fact that,absent some authority, it IS illegal to have them. If it was illegal to have them the day BEFORE the 'script was written, and I'm reasonably certain that I would not get too far arguing that "But your honor, I HAD a script for them in 1983, so it must be OK for me to have them now".

This is a matter that 'it didn't used to be legal for me to have them, then it was' - at what time does that permission expire?

Any cop who would let me slide with "those are just unused ones from 1983" is probably not destined for a long career.
Their burden of proof. I think any cop that routinely arrested someone that had pills in a prescription container with his or her name on it is probably not destined for a long career.

I assume medical records are kept around long enough for emergency vindication in any event.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 07-27-2010, 12:01 PM
Sister Vigilante Sister Vigilante is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
When my grandmother died the hospice nurse washed all her remaining prescription drugs down our kitchen sink.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 07-27-2010, 02:25 PM
Banquo Banquo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Qwakkeddup View Post
If you have kept drugs beyond the expiry date, I would think you aren't addicted or abusing them.

Just watch for signs of deterioration.

With younger children in the house, it may be prudent to actually lock them up for storage or dispose of them though.
Sorry, i misread your quote earlier. I am curious as to how certain drugs will deteriorate. I haven't actually taken these specific drugs in several months. They have NOT been stored in a cool, dry place. If I went anywhere, they went with me just in case so they've been in my pockets on hot days and damp days. Aside from the legal implications, Iv'e been looking for information on weather or not they might degrade, oxidize, ferment, ect. into something toxic

Last edited by Banquo; 07-27-2010 at 02:30 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 07-27-2010, 11:57 PM
BigT BigT is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sister Vigilante View Post
When my grandmother died the hospice nurse washed all her remaining prescription drugs down our kitchen sink.
That makes sense, as the point is that only you can take medicine prescribed for you. Plus, if you've saved up your own medicine by not taking it all, you probably aren't addicted (as mentioned upthread). You have no such assurances if it's the medicine of someone who can no longer take them, given to someone else.

I personally never use all of my cough syrup, and keep it around so I don't have to buy new since my insurance won't cover it. I usually wind up having to throw it out.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 07-28-2010, 09:35 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: At the Diogenes Club
Posts: 45,212
In Ohio, there's now an ad campaign asking people NOT to flush their unused meds down the toilet, or wash them down the sink - depending on where you live, it might end up in a lake and can cumulatively hurt wildlife. See here: http://wrd.clermontcountyohio.gov/Pr...tionDrugs.aspx
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 07-28-2010, 10:52 AM
yabob yabob is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 7,185
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amblydoper View Post
What does a job related drug test have to do with legality of expired prescription drugs?
Well, maybe not a lot to do with the actual legality, per se. But let's say you test positive for opiates. Then you say "Yeah, I had this legal prescription for oxycontin 4 years ago, see this bottle? I didn't use it all, and a couple days ago when I got a sore back I remembered I had some left.". I think the point was that they are very likely not to believe that, even if the bottle has some oxycontin pills in it, that you could have obtained illegally.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 07-28-2010, 11:01 AM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Medical advisability, and legality are separate issues. Some drugs require prescriptions, some of them are controlled substances, and cannot be possessed without a valid prescription. A valid prescription contains dates to begin, and end use of the drug. The license to possess this substance only covers the period between those dates, not the date of expiration of the drug lot. While it is unlikely that you will be prosecuted for possession of a Tylenol III after the date you prescription expires, it is legally possible.

Tris
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 07-28-2010, 01:40 PM
Banquo Banquo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Triskadecamus View Post
A valid prescription contains dates to begin, and end use of the drug. The license to possess this substance only covers the period between those dates, not the date of expiration of the drug lot.
Tris
Is the "discard by" date the license expiration or the drug expiration date?
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 07-28-2010, 04:07 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
When I broke a bone in my ankle, they operated and inserted a plate. Then they sent me home with 50 vicodin. I still have the whole 50, pretty good evidence that I am not addicted. Don't cops have better things to do? Now if I tried to sell them (I am told they are pretty valuable on the black market), that would plainly be illegal.

Why have I kept them for 6 years? Well, during the summer of '93, I had a very bad back. Very bad. Our family doctor was on vacation and no doctor would write prescription with a visit. At the time I could not either sit or stand for more than about a minute without excruciating pain. You cannot believe how fast I was defecating and showering. Finally, our doctor came back, he prescribed a pain killer and only then, things gradually improved. Never again will I be caught without a strong painkiller.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 07-29-2010, 03:21 AM
Baffle Baffle is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sister Vigilante View Post
When my grandmother died the hospice nurse washed all her remaining prescription drugs down our kitchen sink.
This is of course a terrible idea; the drugs pass through sewage treatment unchanged and enter into downriver water supplies. Return drugs to your pharmacist for proper disposal (or just keep 'em, they might come in handy).
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:35 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.