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Knowledge Base » Care » Medication Storage – Receiving, Storing and Disposing of Medication

Medication Storage – Receiving, Storing and Disposing of Medication

According to the NHS, 44% of men and 51% of women take at least one prescribed medication a week. Additionally, the Consumer Healthcare Association, PAGB, reports that 92% of people in the UK use over-the-counter medication every year. With more people than ever using medication in the UK, ensuring medication is received, stored and disposed of properly is essential. 

Proper medication handling is essential for ensuring that medications are effective and safe. Each step of medication handling from receiving, storing and organising to disposing of medications, requires careful attention. Proper medication storage is imperative and can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Correct storage ensures medication is safe and effective whilst incorrect storage and handling can lead to reduced efficacy, potential health risks and safety hazards.

Storing medication

Receiving Medication

When you receive medication from a pharmacy, it is essential to ensure the medication you are receiving is correct. To do this, check the medication label to ensure it has your name and personal details correct. You should also check that the medication name, dosage and instructions match what your healthcare provider prescribed, by comparing it with your prescription, your medical records or your previous medication. Additionally, many people do not realise the importance of inspecting medication packaging for any signs of tampering or damage. If the packaging looks compromised, do not use the medication. If anything seems unclear or incorrect, do not hesitate to ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for clarification. Ensure you understand why you are taking the medication and how it should be taken.

Once you have determined your medication is correct, you should then review the instruction leaflet that has been provided. Understanding medication instructions is essential for safe and effective use. You should pay attention to the following aspects of the instructions:

  • Dosage guidelines: Follow the prescribed dosage exactly as directed by your healthcare provider. Taking too little or too much can impact the medication’s effectiveness and safety.
  • Administration method: There are different routes of medication administration. Be clear about how the medication should be taken. Some medications need to be taken with food, while others should be taken on an empty stomach. There might also be specific instructions on how to swallow, chew or inject the medication.
  • Frequency and timing: Know how often and at what times you should take the medication. Consistency is key to maintaining therapeutic levels of the medication in your system.
  • Side effects and interactions: Familiarise yourself with potential side effects and any interactions with other medications or supplements you are taking. This information can help you identify adverse reactions early and seek medical advice if needed.
  • Storage instructions: Understand any specific storage requirements, such as keeping the medication in a cool, dry place or refrigerating it.

By thoroughly checking for accuracy and reviewing instructions, you ensure that you are using your medication safely and effectively, maximising the effectiveness of the medication and minimising any potential risks.

Storing Medication

Proper storage of medications is essential to maintain their effectiveness and ensure they are still safe to use. Medications can lose their potency if not stored under the right conditions. Factors like temperature, humidity and light can cause chemical changes in the medication and reduce its effectiveness. Proper storage ensures that the medication remains as effective as intended by the manufacturer and is safe to use. Because some medications can become toxic or harmful if they degrade due to improper storage conditions, ensuring medications are stored correctly can help to prevent these risks.

Additionally, proper storage can prevent accidental poisoning. Medications stored improperly can be easily accessed by children or pets, which can lead to accidental poisoning. Childproofing medication storage areas can help to protect vulnerable household members from accidental ingestion, which could result in serious health emergencies or even death. Proper storage also helps to prevent contamination from environmental factors such as moisture, dust and pests. Contaminated medications can pose health risks and may lead to infections or other adverse reactions.

Many medications come with specific storage instructions mandated by the manufacturer and regulatory bodies. Adhering to these guidelines is essential not only for maintaining the medication’s effectiveness and safety but also for legal compliance. By storing medications correctly, you ensure that they remain effective, safe and ready for use when needed, ultimately contributing to better health outcomes and overall safety.

When choosing how and where to store your medication, some things you should consider include:

  • Cool, dry places: Store medications in a cool, dry place such as a kitchen cabinet or a bedroom drawer. Ensure that these locations are away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
  • Secure areas: Choose a storage spot that is secure and not easily accessible to children or pets. High cabinets or locked drawers are ideal. It can also be beneficial to educate children about medication. Teaching children what medication is and telling them it is not sweets or food and that they cannot take any medicine without an adult can help prevent medication poisoning.
  • Room temperature: Most medications should be stored at room temperature (20-25°C) and you should avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures.
  • Humidity control: High humidity can cause medications to deteriorate more quickly. Ensure your storage area is dry and consider using a dehumidifier if necessary. It is recommended to avoid bathrooms, which are typically humid environments.
  • Avoid heat: Keep medications away from heat sources like stoves, ovens or radiators. Excessive heat can cause some medications to lose potency or become unsafe to use.
  • High and locked storage: Store medications in high cabinets or lock them in drawers.
  • Original containers: Keep medications in their original child-resistant packaging. Do not transfer them to other containers that might be easier for children to open.

Some medications require specific storage instructions to remain effective. For example, certain medications, such as specific liquid antibiotics, insulin and some biologics, need to be stored in the refrigerator. Check the medication label or ask your pharmacist for storage instructions. Some medications are also light-sensitive and need to be protected from light. Store these medications in their original containers, which are often designed to block light. You should avoid freezing medications unless specifically instructed to do so. Freezing can alter the chemical composition of some medications, rendering them ineffective or unsafe.

By following these guidelines for storing medications, you can ensure their potency, safety and longevity and protect the health and well-being of you and your family.

Managing medication

Organising Medication

Proper organisation of medications is essential for ensuring that you take the right doses at the right times, thereby maximising their effectiveness and maintaining your health. With multiple medications, it can be challenging to keep track of everything. One of the most effective ways of organising your medication is to create a medication schedule. Creating and adhering to a medication schedule is essential for preventing missed doses and ensuring consistent therapeutic levels of the medication in your body. Some ways you can create a medication schedule are:

  • Set regular times: Take your medications at the same time each day. Align medication times with your daily routine, such as during meals or before bedtime, to make it easier to remember.
  • Use alarms and reminders: Utilise alarms on your phone or dedicated medication reminder apps to alert you when it’s time to take your medication. Some apps also offer tracking features to monitor adherence.
  • Keep a medication log: Maintain a written or digital log of your medications, including the name, dosage and times they should be taken. Check off each dose after you take it to keep track.
  • Involve family members: If you have a complex medication regimen, enlist the help of family members or caregivers to remind you and ensure you stay on track.

Pill organisers can also be helpful for people who take multiple medications each day. Pill organisers can help you simplify your medication management, pre-sort your medications for the week and ensure you take the correct dose at the right time. By organising your medications in advance, you reduce the risk of missing a dose or taking the wrong dose or medication. Pill organisers with compartments for different times of the day can be particularly useful in preventing mistakes. Using a pill organiser can help you adhere to your medication schedule more consistently, improving the effectiveness of your treatment. They are also useful for people who travel as they allow you to travel with your medication more easily.

When choosing a pill organiser, some factors you should consider are:

  • Size and capacity: Select an organiser with enough compartments to hold your medications for the desired period, whether it’s daily or weekly.
  • Labels and visibility: Choose an organiser with clear labels and see-through compartments to easily check if you’ve taken your medication.
  • Portability: If you need to take your medications on the go, look for a portable, durable organiser that fits easily in your bag or pocket.
  • Security: Ensure your pill organiser is child-resistant, as multiple different medications in one box can look like sweets to a small child.

By implementing a structured medication schedule and using pill organisers, you can enhance your medication management, reduce the risk of missed doses and ensure a more effective treatment regimen.

Disposing of Medication

Proper disposal of medications is essential to ensure they do not pose a risk to health, safety or the environment. Medication is classed as hazardous waste and medications that are expired or no longer needed should be disposed of correctly to prevent accidental ingestion, misuse and environmental contamination.

Disposal methods can vary depending on the reason why the medication is being disposed of. For example, expired medications can lose their potency and may even become harmful. Regularly review your medications and check the expiry dates – remember expired medications should never be used. Unused medications that are no longer needed should be disposed of responsibly to prevent misuse and environmental harm. It is recommended that you regularly review your medications to identify those you no longer need. Consult with your healthcare provider if you’re unsure about discontinuing any medication. 

When disposing of expired or unused medications, ensure you follow safe disposal methods:

  • Do not flush: Avoid flushing medications down the toilet unless the label or accompanying information specifically instructs you to do so because flushing can contaminate water supplies.
  • Mix with unpalatable substances: If no take-back programmes are available, mix the expired medication with an undesirable substance like coffee grounds or cat litter. Place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it in your household trash. This method helps prevent accidental ingestion by children, animals or others.
  • Remove personal information: Before disposing of medication containers, remove any personal information on the labels to protect your privacy.

Many places in your local community likely offer waste medicine disposal services, to ensure medication is disposed of safely and in an environmentally friendly manner. Recycle Now offers specific information about recycling medication, based on your postcode. Additionally, pharmacies across the UK have a disposal option for expired or unwanted medications. Community pharmacies are legally obliged to accept unwanted medications from their patients, meaning you can drop your medications off at your local pharmacy, which will dispose of them correctly. 

By following these guidelines and utilising community disposal programmes, you can help prevent the misuse of medications and protect the environment from contamination. Proper disposal of medications ensures a safer community and a healthier ecosystem.

reading medication information


Proper medication handling is essential for ensuring the effectiveness and safety of medication. It is important to always verify the accuracy of the medication you receive by checking the label, dosage and instructions. Understanding how to take your medication correctly can prevent health risks and enhance its effectiveness. 

Additionally, store medications in a cool, dry place, away from children and pets. Follow specific storage instructions to maintain medication potency and safety. Proper storage protects your medications from environmental factors that can degrade them. You should also implement a medication schedule to prevent missed doses and ensure consistent treatment. When you are finished with your medication, safely dispose of it to prevent accidental ingestion, misuse and environmental harm.

By adhering to these practices, you contribute to your overall health and safety, ensuring that your medications work as intended and reducing the risk of accidental poisoning or environmental contamination. Proper medication storage and disposal are integral to maintaining a safe and healthy home environment.

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About the author

Nicole Murphy

Nicole Murphy

Nicole graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in Psychology in 2013. She works as a writer and editor and tries to combine all her passions - writing, education, and psychology. Outside of work, Nicole loves to travel, go to the beach, and drink a lot of coffee! She is currently training to climb Machu Picchu in Peru.

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