Straight, No Chaser: What Should NOT Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

In the previous Straight, No Chaser, we discussed the ideal use of your medicine cabinets to prepare for life’s nagging aches and pain. However, has it ever occurred to you that many people run straight to the medicine cabinet to do harm to themselves or others? I want you to know the harder the effort is to obtain items to hurt oneself, the less likely one is to follow through on the notion. On a related note, there’s a quick not-so-fun-but-interesting fact regarding one of the differences between America and say, certain European countries that has to do with the oversized influence of corporations in the States. Why am I talking about that on a medical blog? Read on. If you can’t tell where I’m going with this, you’ll get it pretty quickly.

Here’s my top five items I want you to take out your medicine cabinets and lock up.


1. Any jumbo sized container of any medication. Think about two of the most common over the counter (OTC) medications used for suicide attempts: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and salicylate (aspirin). One thing they have in common is you can buy what amounts to a tub-full of it at your local superstore in the United States. They should call these things ‘suicide quantities’, because often those in the midst of a suicide attempt will grab and swallow whatever is convenient. Many different medications will hurt you if you take enough; Tylenol and aspirin certainly fit that bill. Observing that (and additional considerations after the deaths due to the lacing of Tylenol with cyanide back in 1983), the Brits decided to not only pass a law limiting quantities, but certain medications that are high-frequency and high-risk for suicide use are now mandatorily dispensed in those annoying containers that you have to pop through the plastic container. Needless to say, observed suicide rates by medication rates plummeted as a result. Wonder why that hasn’t been implemented in the good ol’ USA?
2. Have teens in your house? Lock up the Robitussin and NyQuil. Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in over 100 OTC cold and cough preparations. Teens use these to get high, folks. To make matters worse, they are addictive, and if taken with alcohol or other drugs, they can kill you. Then there’s “purple drank” (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), in which these cough syrups containing codeine and promethazine (Benadryl) are mixed with drinks such as Sprite or Mountain Dew.
3. Have any sexual performance medications? This is part of a category of medicines called ‘medicines that can kill someone with just one pill’. That usually refers to kids or the elderly, but remember that those sexual enhancement drugs are medicines that lower your blood pressure. In the wrong person and in the wrong dose, taking such medicine – whether intentionally or accidentally – could be the last thing someone does.


3. Any narcotic. Need I say more? Remember, you do have people rummaging through your cabinets on occasion!
4. Any sharps. That includes sewing pins, needles, etc.
5. Any medication with an expiration date. The medication date actually is more of a ‘freshness’ consideration than a danger warning. However, in the wrong patient, a medicine that has less than the 100% guarantee of its needed strength that the expiration date represents could be fatal. Play it safe and get a new prescription.
There’s a lot more that could be added to this list, but I like keeping things manageable for you.  Please childproof all your cabinets, and use childproof caps on your medications.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
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