NJ Launches “Project Medicine Drop” Pilot Program

Chief John Dmuchowski of the Little Falls Police Department; Lt. John Lombardi of the Seaside Heights Police Department; New Jersey Attorney General Paula T. Dow; Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs; and Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent in Charge of the NJ Division of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Not pictured, but also present: Dr. Christina Tan, Deputy Director of the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services. (Courtesy of the NJ Attorney General's Office)

NEWARK – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, today led a group of statewide public health and safety partners in announcing the launch of “Project Medicine Drop” – an important component in the division’s campaign to halt the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.

Project Medicine Drop is a pilot program in which, beginning today, the Division of Consumer Affairs will install “prescription drug drop boxes” at three New Jersey police departments – those in Little Falls, Seaside Heights, and Vineland. Once the boxes are in place, members of the public will have the opportunity to dispose of their unused and expired prescription medications safely and securely. The opportunity is available to the public seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Dow and Calcagni noted that today’s announcement builds on the success of the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take Back Initiative, and the American Medicine Chest Challenge, which is sponsored in New Jersey by the DEA, Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, and Sheriffs’ Association of New Jersey. The most recent DEA Take Back Day was held Oct. 29, and the most recent American Medicine Chest initiative was held Nov. 11. Both programs enabled members of the public to drop off their unused medications at pre-identified, secure locations throughout those days.

Project Medicine Drop makes the opportunity available throughout the year. The three police departments that have agreed to host the medicine drop boxes will maintain custody of the deposited drugs, and dispose of them according to their normal procedures for the custody and destruction of controlled dangerous substances. They will report the quantity 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. 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,” Dow said. “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.”

Consumers from anywhere in New Jersey may deposit their medications in any of the three drop boxes being installed this week. 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 Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “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 flushing down the toilet or sink, and the US 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,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. “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.”

Project Medicine Drop will place unused drugs in the custody of the Little Falls Police Department, Seaside Heights Police Department, and Vineland Police Department. These agencies are authorized to take custody of controlled dangerous substances, keep them secure, and safely destroy them.

Information about the boxes, and their specific locations, can be found at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/meddrop.

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