NJ Expands “Project Medicine Drop” Program To Help Residents Safely Dispose Of Unwanted Drugs

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New Project Medicine Drop locations (click to open a larger version)

PARAMUS – New Jersey’s “Project Medicine Drop” project has added 20 new locations, giving it 27 in all with at least one in every county, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs announced today. The initiative allows citizens to safely dispose of their unused prescription medications at secure receptacles at law enforcement stations across New Jersey.

Members of the public are invited to come in and use the Project Medicine Drop sites 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to dispose of their unused and expired prescription medications.

“Nationwide, more than 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from friends or relatives,” Chiesa said. “We are fighting this problem with a multi-tiered approach that involves law enforcement, our New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program, and engagement with the healthcare community. It must also involve the participation of all New Jersey citizens. With this program we encourage you to take responsibility for the medications in your home – and safely dispose of those you no longer need.”

The announcement was made at the Paramus Police Department during National Recovery Month – one of 20 new locations that will have received a Project Medicine Drop box by the end of this week. The new expansion nearly quadruples the size of the program. The full list of locations is available at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/meddrop.

Chiesa noted that, in addition to the 20 new boxes announced today, the Division will install another six boxes at partnering police departments in early 2013. Any additional law enforcement agencies that wish to become partners in the program may contact the Division of Consumer Affairs.

“We owe a tremendous debt of thanks to all of the law enforcement agencies that stepped up to become full partners in Project Medicine Drop and are making this service available to their communities,” Eric T. Kanefsky, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “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.”

The Project Medicine Drop boxes are lockable, metal containers, resembling mailboxes and installed at select New Jersey police departments, sheriff’s offices, and State Police barracks. The boxes enable consumers to drop off their unused or excess medications safely and securely, with law enforcement agencies authorized to take custody of controlled dangerous substances.

Paramus Police Chief Christopher Brock said, “We are extremely proud to step up as Bergen County’s first Project Medicine Drop partner. The Paramus Police Department has played an active role in the DEA’s national one-day take back events, and the next logical step is to make this opportunity available to our residents 365 days a year.”

The program helps keep prescription drugs from falling into the hands of those who might make them available for abuse, and prevents them from being flushed into the water supply or thrown into the trash where they could contaminate the environment.

In a partnership endorsed by the State Department of Environmental Protection, Morristown-based Covanta Energy, a nationwide operator of energy-from-waste and renewable energy facilities, has agreed to destroy the medications at no cost to taxpayers, thus potentially saving the police departments thousands of dollars per year.

Since the program’s inception, consumers have dropped off more than 2,000 pounds of unused medications at the original seven Project Medicine Drop locations.

According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 70 percent of people aged 12 and older who abused prescription pain relievers obtained them from friends or relatives, compared with five percent who obtained them from drug dealers or the internet.

The scope of America’s prescription drug abuse problem is staggering:

  • New Jersey in 2011 saw more than 8,600 separate admissions to State-licensed or certified substance abuse treatment programs due to prescription painkiller abuse – an increase of more than 200 percent over the past five years, and nearly 700 percent since the beginning of the decade.
  • 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 in the number of young people addicted not only to painkillers, but to 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.

Next week, the Office of the Attorney General will partner with the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division, Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, and other agencies to promote “The Right Prescription for New Jersey,” a multi-media effort targeting the parents of middle school students with prescription drug abuse prevention information.

Project Medicine Drop is one component of the Division of Consumer Affairs’ comprehensive effort to halt the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs. Project Medicine Drop is inspired by the success of the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative. The next DEA-sponsored Take Back Day will be held Saturday, September 29. Project Medicine Drop, however, enables consumers to dispose of unused medications at any time throughout the year.

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. It also includes strategies to reduce the supply of drugs available for abuse, and greater public awareness about the dangers of abuse.

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