NEWARK – The Division of Consumer Affairs launched “Project Medicine Drop” on Monday as part of an effort to prevent prescription drug abuse.
The “prescription drug drop boxes” are at the Little Falls, Seaside Heights, and Vineland police departments. Residents can dispose of their unused and expired prescription drugs any day.
Attorney General Paula Dow and New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Director Thomas Calcagni said that several other prescription drug drop-off programs are already in place, run by various groups, but unlike Project Medicine Drop, they are only available on certain occasions.
The police departments will report the number of discarded drugs to the Division of Consumer Affairs on a quarterly basis.
“For too many New Jersey teenagers, addiction begins in the medicine cabinet,” Dow said in a statement. “National surveys show teenagers who abuse these drugs often take them from relatives, or get them from friends. Many people mistakenly believe prescription painkillers are less dangerous and less addictive than cocaine or heroin – but they are tragically wrong. The fight against addiction must therefore begin at home. This pilot program will enable New Jerseyans who wish to get rid of their unused medications, to do so throughout the year in a safe and secure manner.”
The division plans to expand the program in 2012, to include police departments in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
“Forty Americans die each day as a result of prescription painkiller abuse,” said Calcagni. “Reports indicate that over twelve million Americans abused prescription drugs in the last year alone, while prescription opioid overdose now kills more people than cocaine and heroin combined. With the abuse of prescription drugs reaching epidemic proportions, it’s the obligation of all of us to ensure that unused medication is disposed of securely and responsibly. Today, we’re inviting parents, grandparents, and others to join us on the front lines of the battle against prescription drug abuse. The simple act of depositing your unused medications with Project Medicine Drop will help prevent addiction, and help save lives.”
Dow and Calcagni pointed out that flushing unused medications – especially those classified as controlled dangerous substances (CDS) – down the toilet, or discarding them in the trash, poses health risks. Scientists have expressed concerns about the effects of medications released into water supplies after being flushed down the toilet or sink, and the U.S. Geological Survey has found traces of pharmaceuticals in streams in 30 states. Placing drugs in the trash creates the potential that they will be found by those seeking to sell or abuse them.
“Abuse of prescription drugs is a growing epidemic in this country that results in 15,000 deaths annually,” Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd said in the statement. “Project Medicine Drop will provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of prescription drugs and at the same time help us prevent addiction, harmful overdoses or accidental death.”