Q: My husband is recovering from a ruptured appendix, and a nurse said the medicine cabinet isn't the best place to store his pain meds. Isn't that what it's for?
ALICE W., West Lebanon, N.H.
A: Medicine cabinets in the bathroom expose medications to heat and moisture from a shower or bath, and that can speed the breakdown of drugs, especially tablets and capsules. Generally, your best bet is to put all medications in a cool, dark place - a lockable cabinet or a small, locked storage box in your bedroom are good choices. Also, check the package insert that comes with a prescription to see if there are special storage instructions.
Your responsibility for safe handling of medications doesn't stop there. Once your husband is back on his feet, he may have pain medications left over. You need to dispose of them properly.
Don't flush any drugs down the toilet. Many meds can pass through wastewater treatment plants' filtration systems and end up in ground water, rivers and lakes. So far, the Environmental Protection Agency hasn't found evidence that pharmaceuticals in drinking water harm people, but male fish have developed female characteristics because of exposure to endocrine disruptors in rivers and streams. So play it safe:
1. Use a "Drug Take Back" program or "Pharmaceutical Collection Event." These are managed in cooperation with local law enforcement.
2. Ask your pharmacist if the store has a drug-disposal program.
3. If you dispose of meds in your garbage: Remove labels from pill bottles; dissolve remaining pills with vinegar; tape the container closed; place in a sealed, non-transparent bag.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.