CHERRY HILL – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today expanded “Project Medicine Drop,” a statewide initiative to help everyday citizens join the fight against the abuse of addictive, deadly prescription drugs.
The expansion includes a partnership with Covanta Energy Corporation, a New Jersey-based business that will enable police departments, free of charge, to destroy medications turned in by consumers. It also includes the installation of new Project Medicine Drop boxes at the Cherry Hill Police Department, Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, Lower Township Police Department, and Toms River Police Department – more than doubling the program’s capacity to receive consumers’ unwanted and expired medications.
“Prescription painkiller abuse sends thousands of New Jersey residents into addiction treatment each year, and kills more Americans than cocaine and heroin combined. We are fighting this problem with targeted investigations and enhanced tools to detect ‘pill mills’ and ‘doctor shopping,’” Chiesa said. “Today, by expanding Project Medicine Drop, we are inviting New Jerseyans to join us in this fight. At the Cherry Hill Police Department and other sites throughout the state, you can drop off your unused medications safely, securely, and responsibly.”
Under Project Medicine Drop, the Division of Consumer Affairs installs lockable, metal “prescription drug drop boxes” at select New Jersey police departments and sheriff’s offices. Members of the public are invited to come in and use the boxes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to dispose of their unused and expired prescription medications.
This simple but important step helps keep excess medications from falling into the hands of those who might abuse them, or sell them for abuse. It also helps protect the environment – as it keeps harmful medications from being flushed into the water supply.
Chiesa noted the Project Medicine Drop pilot program, launched with three North, Central, and South Jersey police departments in November 2011, hit an initial snag in that residents turned in substantially more medications – approximately 400 pounds of pills and pill containers – than were initially expected. Destruction of the medications threatened to become cost-prohibitive for the Little Falls Police Department, Seaside Heights Police Department, and Vineland Police Department.
Today’s expansion of the program includes a new partnership with Covanta, a Morristown-based operator of energy-from-waste and renewable energy facilities. The company will destroy the medications at no cost to taxpayers, thus potentially saving the police departments thousands of dollars each year.
Also today, Chiesa announced Project Medicine Drop is being expanded with the addition of new prescription drug drop boxes at the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, Cherry Hill Police Department, Lower Township Police Department, and Toms River Police Department. The drop boxes are in place and ready to accept medications from consumers. The division’s goal is to place at least one drop box in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties by the end of this year.
“We’re not just helping consumers get excess medications out of their homes. We are encouraging New Jerseyans to think differently about their prescription medications – including how to use them responsibly and talk to their family members about the dangers of abuse,” Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said, “The DEP strongly supports this initiative, which will provide a secure and environmentally sound method of prescription drug disposal, and one that will help protect our water supply.”
Cherry Hill Police Chief Rick Del Campo said, “The Cherry Hill Police Department is proud to lead this initiative in our county, and to help residents take an active role in the effort to keep unused medications from being abused, and from polluting the environment.”
Through Covanta’s Rx4Safety initiative, and with approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the company accepts and destroys household medications, free of charge, from any law enforcement agency that partners with Project Medicine Drop. The medications will be transported to Covanta facilities in Newark, Rahway, or Oxford. They will be consumed in furnaces that convert municipal solid waste to create steam and electricity. Since launching Rx4Safety in 2010, Covanta has destroyed more than 240,000 pounds of unwanted medication and prescription drugs at its facilities in other states, free of charge; and is now bringing the initiative to its home state of New Jersey.
“Covanta is extremely happy to now provide this service in our home state and to New Jersey residents,” said John G. Waffenschmidt, Covanta Energy vice president of environmental science and community affairs. “Energy-from-Waste facilities produce clean, renewable energy from everyday municipal solid waste and provide a safe way to dispose of unwanted medication. Our facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art combustion controls and air pollution control equipment to ensure the destruction of these drugs in an environmentally sound manner, one that protects the water we depend upon day in and day out and ensures that unwanted drugs are not available for abuse.”
Chiesa and Kanefsky thanked the Cape May, Ocean, and Somerset County Offices of Consumer Affairs for their role in helping identify local law enforcement partners for this initiative.
Project Medicine Drop builds upon the success of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Initiative, which offers single-day events during which the public is invited to drop off their unused medications at pre-identified, secure locations. The next DEA-sponsored Take-Back Day will be held April 28. Project Medicine Drop, however, enables consumers to dispose of unused medications at any time throughout the year.
The scope of America’s prescription drug abuse problem is staggering, officials said:
- New Jersey in 2010 saw more than 7,000 admissions to State-licensed or certified substance abuse treatment programs due to prescription painkiller abuse – a 230 percent increase from 2005.
- In June 2011, the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation reported that a growing number of young people are abusing prescription drugs, and noted a significant trend in which the practice has led to increases, not only in the number of young people addicted to painkillers, but to the number of young people using heroin as well.
- Every day, 40 Americans die from an overdose caused by prescription painkiller abuse, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overdoses of opioid prescription drugs now kill more people in the U.S. than heroin and cocaine combined.
- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has reported that two in five teenagers mistakenly believe prescription drugs are “much safer” than illegal drugs.
Project Medicine Drop is one component of the Division of Consumer Affairs’ comprehensive effort to halt the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.
The effort also includes the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program, a statewide database that tracks prescription data on Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) medications dispensed in New Jersey. It includes enhanced enforcement initiatives, including a comprehensive reorganization of the Division’s Enforcement Bureau to focus on drug diversion investigations and indiscriminate prescribing by healthcare practitioners. And it includes strategies to reduce the supply of drugs available for abuse, educate the public about the dangers of abuse, and enable recovery for persons struggling with addiction.
For much more information about Project Medicine Drop, visit www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/meddrop.
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