Should you take expired medicines?

The majority of people have at least one expired medicine at home and might even not be aware of that. Of course, you should be very careful about the expiration dates of any products and especially about medicines. The general recommendation is to get rid of any expired products, however, in the case of some medicines this is not thus obvious.

Let’s look at this problem together.

What can happen if you take an expired medicine?

Certainly, everything depends on the exact type of your medicine as well as on the time which has passed since the expiration date.

There three most popular things which can happen to a medicine when it gets expired.

In some expired medicines, microorganisms are starting proliferating. Others themselves are undergoing various chemical reactions which are changing the substances inside. This can turn a medicine into a real poison. There are also medicines which are just losing their biochemical activity with time. Even though you will not get poisoned by taking such a medicine, they will harm you in another way. As you can imagine, a person can take such a product relying on its power whereas it is no longer active and will not have any positive effect on one’s health.

Still, there is one issue about expiration of medicines which you should be aware of.

Why are not all of the expired medicines necessarily bad for your health?

While it is strongly recommended not to experiment with your health by taking medicines which have already been expired, it does not necessarily mean all of them are bad in some way. That is so since the date of expiration itself is not always accurate in the case of medicines.

The problem with an expiration date of such problem is the result of the procedure of identifying this date for new products. Anytime a pharmacological company is developing a new medicine, it has to set an expiration date for it. In order to do it, the company has to keep the product out of the market until its quality decreases and it is no longer helpful or becomes downright harmful. As you can imagine, for some products it can be a quite short time, especially for liquids after opening their packages. Yet, there are also products which are not getting spoilt thus fast and checking their actual data of expiration can take years.

Obviously, the manufacturer is not capable of releasing a medicine on the market without any expiration date. Thus, in case of the products with a potentially longer shelf life, they usually set a universal date of expiration after three years of their production.

Pharmacological companies are not interested financially in checking whether such medicines are really valid for a longer time or not. Thus, clinical experiments are not carried out in order to identify an accurate expiration date for many potentially long-lasting products. Yet. there are scientists who are interested in understanding the activity of many pharmacological products, so they have checked a range of medicines.

Medicines which remain in their initial condition after 40 years

One of the most resistant medicines discovered by scientists among expired drugs was paracetamol. According to them, this products can stay perfectly active and free from any changes for long years. Of course, this might not apply to all of the paracetamol medicines.

Codeine is another highly stable medicine which does not change its properties for years.

Aspirin does not have such high chemical stability as Paracetamol, as in 10 years it loses almost all its effectiveness. Yet, if you have a product which expired no more than two years ago and you urgently need to get rid of pain, you can try to take your Aspirin.

When it comes to pharmacalogical substances with high resistance to drastic temperatures, antihistamine drugs and especially the ones based on loratadine are particularly stable.

What should you do?

Even though some medicines are potentially safe for consuming even after 40 years, it still does not mean you should take them. It is crucial to understand, not all of them are equal and their quality can depend on the country and company by which they have been produced. Of course, you should be aware of the fact the products checked  in such experiments were produced in the previous century which also means they are not necessarily the same as the modern ones.

Yet, if you happen to get into a life-threatening situation without medicines which still have not reached their expiration date, it is better to reach for one of the expired products from the list above according to the needs rather than not take any medicine at all.

At the same time, you should pay your attention to the quality of any medicines, even they have not expired. Sometimes medicines get spoilt before their expiration date, so you should always be careful about any pharmacological product you are consuming.